a continuation of How your favourite gadget is changing the world: Part 1 of 2
In India too, the mobile technology is being explored in various social fields. Though the penetration of mobile phones is not very high across India, the mobile still reaches interior rural villages and tribal areas in some states. There are 325 million mobile users in India and the number is rising steeply every month.
Improving maternal health in Gujarat
SEWA Rural is trying to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity in rural Gujarat through its MNCP programme. The programme operates in 168 villages and reaches population of 1,71,000. A key component of the programme are Community Health Workers (CHWs), who conduct home visits of mothers and monitor maternal care and identify complication on time. These are trained women who provide basic health care and appropriate referrals in case of complications.
SEWA is partnering with ClickDiagnostics, a company dedicated to provide telehealth technology solutions. ClickDiagnostics will develop a text based system to track health status of pregnant mothers and newborns. The CHW will use the mobile to send this data to the centre where a doctor can respond with appropriate advice through the web. Click Diagnostics is operating in many other countries like Ghana, Bangladesh, Kenya and Uganda to provide timely critical health advice to CHWs working in remote villages where health care services are not accessible.
Improving livelihood situation in urban India
In urban areas, migrant unskilled labourers spend enormous amounts of time looking for work on a daily basis. Often their only source of job information is restricted to their personal networks of relatives and friends from their village. The client too relies on personal networks to find a appropriate worker. Innovative initiatives like LabourNet and Babajob in Bangalore are working to remove this inefficiency in the system of finding the right work for the right worker.
Their model provides a web based platform where informal sector workers register with their addresses and so do clients from all around the city. The organization is able to use mobile technology to inform the worker of the job opportunity in his locality. This removes the limitation of knowing the right people to find the right work for the worker. Besides, they also overcome the 90 minute commute time by connecting the closest worker to the job, keeping both worker and client happier.
Helping farmers in rural India with technical information
IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd. is a company that partners with Airtel to provide vital information about farm inputs to farmers in villages. It also promotes the IFCCO Kisan SIM card – a unique value-added platform that broadcasts 5 free voice messages on mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecasts, dairy farming, animal husbandry and fertilizer availability.
This helps a farmer in a remote village access information relevant to his crop and avoids the travel required to a town to get this information. Farmers can also call a dedicated helpline which is manned by experts. This initiative helps farmers increase their yield. This initiatives’ success is reflected by their 15 lakh customer base across 18 states in India.
Making information accessible to everyone in developing world
Imagine the effect the search engine has had on you and how it has helped you with the right information at the right time. Open Mind, a California based non-profit venture is trying to get that opportunity at low-cost to the less privileged world through the Question Box. Question Box is a device (simple telecom with a cell phone inside) installed in a remote village where an individual can speak into the box and ask any question pertinent to him. It provides answers to everyday questions on health, education, agriculture, etc. The question is answered by live operators who are connected the internet and transfers the answer back in their local language. In Uganda, cell phones are directly being used instead of the typical question boxes.
The beauty of the Question box is that is overcomes illiteracy and language barriers by allowing the often forgotten, most common and effective utilization of mobile technology – voice transfer. Question box has been piloted in rural districts of Pune and two rural communities in Uganda where it is primarily helping farmers access information to improve agricultural productivity.
These are just some of the many ways in which mobile technology is being leveraged to create change. At the rate of 10% increase in mobile users per month, India only has greater chances of benefiting from this technology. All it needs is for us to think of how to use it in innovative ways that will benefit those who need it most.
For me the largest take away from these stories is not the innovation, but the simplicity of innovation. With every story I am more convinced that you don’t need rocket science to change the world. You need the desire to change it. And the quest for that change will lead you to simple discoveries that will create deep changes. Now every time your mobile beeps at an SMS alert, remember the power of simple solutions that large hearts can bring to this world. Who knows what idea might strike you next.
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