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Money, God, and SMS: Explorations in Supporting Social Action Through a Bangladeshi Mosque

TitleMoney, God, and SMS: Explorations in Supporting Social Action Through a Bangladeshi Mosque
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsM Rifat, R, Chen, J, Toyama, K
Conference NameCHI Conference
Conference LocationDenver, CO
KeywordsBangladeshi Mosque, God, money, SMS, social action

Religious institutions hold a significant place in daily life for the vast majority of people in the world, especially in developing countries. Yet despite their social prominence, and despite HCI's emphasis on the social context of technology, organized religion is neglected in both the HCI and ICTD literature. This paper explores the relationship that mosques in Bangladesh have with their constituencies and with technology, with an eye toward the integration of technology with existing religious institutions as a way to achieve positive social ends. We first describe a qualitative exploration of several mosque communities in Bangladesh, where we find that skepticism and pragmatism about modern technology interact in a complex way that nevertheless leaves room for technical interventions. We then describe a randomized controlled trial to study the relative value of SMS messages infused with overtly religious or secularly altruistic frames for the purpose of mosque fundraising. We find that SMS messages increase donations overall, but that their framing is significant. Messages with secular altruistic framing increased donations by 9.5%, while those with religious sentiment increased donations by 57.3%. Our findings demonstrate how technologies like SMS amplify underlying religious forces and suggest the possibility of working with religious institutions in applying positive ICT interventions.