Aid Organisations

Vital toll free support: First ever USSD and Twilio Flex integration


Bringing USSD into the Twilo Flex omni-channel mix

What is USSD?

USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) is an old school communications protocol that’s used for communicating via short text messages. You may well be familiar with the protocol from days of checking your pay as you go mobile phone credit! It’s particularly effective as it lets you bypass data charges as the short transmissions don’t count as SMS.

The protocol is in wide use across Africa, where it most notably powers mobile banking. The protocol has also found a new lease of life in recent times through IoT (Internet of Things) applications.

Why integrate USSD with Twilio Flex?

As part of our work for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which is an Independent humanitarian organisation that helps people displaced by conflict, we needed to provide toll free ways for people to access vital support.

When it came to offering a text solution for those without smartphones, USSD provided a great solution.

Shown in the demo video below; USSD offers a two way flow from which NRC can ask recipients a series of questions that are answered by pressing the corresponding number buttons on their phones.

At the end of the flow, they can request a call back and all of the information is then presented as a case in Twilio Flex. The contact centre staff are given important contextual information and can progress things - such as returning the call - from the same cloud-based contact center platform.


USSD is delivered through dedicated short codes in each country. We’re now live in Uganda, and rolling out the approach in Mali, Tanzania, and Kenya.

We believe this is the first ever USSD integration with Twilio and it’s been really cool to integrate a net new channel into the Twilio mix!

There is huge potential for USSD, and if you would like to know more about using it with Twilio Flex, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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