From helping women deal with the scourge of domestic violence to sharing secrets for growing the best coffee, these interesting initiatives using mobile phones are transforming the lives of people in Indian villages. Here are 8 amazing initiatives that show how a simple mobile can be used as a medium of change.
Isn’t it amazing how mobile phones have brought the world into your hands? With a mobile service subscriber base of 377.73 million in rural areas as on March 2014, it indeed is a good idea to use mobile to bring social change.
Vodafone Foundation through its Mobile for Good Awards facilitates greater cooperation and collective problem solving using mobile technology. And, facilitating greater co-operation and collective problem-solving using mobile technology is Vodafone Foundation through its Mobile for Good Awards. The flagship initiative recognizes and supports emerging talent and innovative mobile solutions from NGOs/NFPs that facilitate community empowerment and inclusive growth.
From its foundation in 2011, the M4G awards have so far supported 13 mobile technology solutions that are bringing about immense social change at the grass root level in Indian villages. With a focus on five main areas that are of paramount importance in rural India, namely m-health, m-education, m-governance, m-women and m-agriculture.
Here are few of the previous year winners who are using mobile phone to transform the lives of people in rural India:
1. Tracking & ensuring that government entitlements are being distributed correctly to the communities by WOSCA
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This mobile-based monitoring system, created by WOSCA is tracking livelihood entitlements of rural communities. In the remotest villages of Odisha, the tribals are unaware of several government schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme, Public Distribution System and Pension schemes due to lack of information. They are usually excluded from various government schemes they are entitled to benefit from. The mobile based monitoring system by WOSCA is addressing this issue by tracking the accuracy of social protection delivery services by the government to the poor. Volunteers from WOSCA use SMS or MMS to disseminate information about public distribution to the Management Information System. These reports are then shared by government officials and local communities for transparency. Learn more about the initiative that has helped 87,000 families so far here.
2. Teaching rural women to learn basic mathematics & other topics by Mahila Shakti
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This initiative by Human Welfare Association aims to empower the most disadvantaged section of rural women in Varanasi. Through 100 Self Help Groups (SHGs), this initiative is empowering rural women to experience an quality of life through education initiatives. Mahila Shakti uses mobile as a powerful tool to impart education at a very basic level. Through this initiative, many women have learnt basic mathematics. A lot of these women now efficiently play the roles of entrepreneurs, bankers, teachers, accountants, etc.. More about them here.
3. Providing valuable information about agriculture to Indian farmers by Kisan Sanchar
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This amazing initiative is solving the Indian farmer’s problems through SMS, voice and a dedicated helpline service. Kisan Sanchar provides valuable information about agriculture with the help of a network of over 35,000 farmers across India. Many farmers risk their health and crops by using strong chemicals. Ishwar was one of these farmers in Haryana. But he soon realised the harmful effects of chemicals and invented an organic fertilizer. Kisan Sanchar is connecting farmers like him to others across the country so that their solutions can be widely adapted. Learn more about the initiative here.
4. Helping pregnant women get access to free governmental health facilities by My Health, My Voice
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As per The World Bank reports, India witnessed 190 women deaths during pregnancy and childbirth per 100,000 live births in 2013. With a grave lack of awareness and facilities, rural women tend to suffer the most. The “My Health, My Voice” initiative started by Sahayog India organization in Uttar Pradesh is improving this situation with help from a mobile phone. This mobile-enabled Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) focuses on helping pregnant women get access to their rightful free governmental health facilities. Women can use the dedicated helplines and report pregnancy-related issues in their preferred language. You can learn more about this service on the Sahayog website.
5. Connecting coffee farmers with each other & providing valuable information by Livelihoods 360
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In some of the remotest villages of Andhra Pradesh, farmers still follow traditional methods of farming which are both time-consuming and costly. The Livelihoods 360 initiative by Naandi Foundation is empowering farmers through mobile phones. This mobile-enabled Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution links marginalised coffee farmers with each other and also provides them valuable information on the best ways of farming along with important market linkages. Using SMS and voice notifications, farmers now have access to the most suitable methods of producing the best coffee and are connected to the right market even with their limited resources. Learn more about it here.
6. Notifying rural youth about various job opportunities by eduVARTA
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Often in rural areas, the youth fail to avail the right job opportunities due to lack of information and awareness. As a majority of the young minds have access to mobile phones, eduVARTA decided to use it as a tool to notify the youngsters about various educational, job and career-related information through regular SMS-based alert system. This interesting initiative already has 30,000 subscribers and has reached out to over 1,20,000 beneficiaries. The alert service provides valuable information on several scholarships and courses that help the students get one step closer to their dreams. More information about the project can be obtained here.
7. Supporting victims of domestic violence by Hello Sakhi
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Around 70% of all women in India are victims of domestic violence, and as per National Crime Records Bureau, one case of cruelty is committed by either the husband or a relative of the husband every nine minutes. The “Hello Sakhi” initiative by Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) and the police department of Kutch in Gujarat is helping the victims of domestic violence through mobile phones. A mobile helpline is providing valuable support to women in distress and helping them with legal assistance, counselling and rehabilitation support. A familiar voice at the other side of the phone and an assurance to help is all the women in need ask for and Hello Sakhi has become their closest friend by helping over 11,000 women across 940 villages so far. For more information, visit the KMVS website.
8. Educating and enabling women to share their views, ideas & issues by Barefoot College
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In the rural Tilonia district of Rajasthan, a mobile phone and a community radio is bringing a wind of change by enabling rural women to get knowledge on issues like healthcare, environment, education, employment, etc. Through Barefoot College, women share their views, ideas and issues by simply making a call, enabling them to become change agents. People can get access to the latest information, call their dedicated helplines and even send SMS to get information on local panchayat news, weather, etc. The community radio that connects people through a mobile phone reaches out to 1,00,000 listeners spread across 15 villages. Learn more about this project here.