Mobile Vaani, launched in 2011, has brought social networking to rural India and resulted in an innovation in communication across the country. Created by Gram Vaani, which means “voice of the village”, it builds technology to induce marginalized communities to voice their news, concerns and demands. Circumventing problems of interpreter access and literacy, the vocally-based program works through rudimentary cell phones.
Users speak their message to the phone, which then posts to the network and feedback is read back to the user. Most of rural India does not have internet access, however approximately 40% of the rural populations have access to cell phones and service.
Mobile Vaani works through an interactive voice response (IVR) system. Users call into a number and leaves a message, or listen to a message. Content is first moderated locally, and then published to the web. Once published, inputs are connected to government, NGO partners and social enterprise partners.
Through this technology, the way in which rural communities communicate their needs of aid has been innovated. Previously, there was no platform for discussion of issues and communication available to rural inhabitants. Projects have been completed more efficiently, information is being shared between far away communities and the poor, rural people of India are developing their own voice. The goal of Mobile Vaani is to create change from the bottom up, by understanding rural and marginalized communities more, as well as providing aid.
Not only has Mobile Vaani provided a new method of communication between rural communities and government, NGOs or social enterprise partners, it has also allowed for communication between communities and industries. Sharing information about weather and other local matters has even helped to increase farming productivity.
This new technology has innovated the way in which change is happening in India. Mobile Vaani was used to spread awareness for free medicines that had been available since 2012 but had unsuccessfully reached rural areas. Campaigns to increase women’s rights, discussions on early marriage and campaigns on violence against women have also benefited from the system. In these campaigns, individuals using Mobile Vaani are asked what they think the causes and solutions to the issues are.
Mobile Vaani is also utilized to develop understanding of new markets in India, particularly in rural areas.
Gram Vaani began as a social-tech company in 2009. Their original innovation was an automated radio system that now involves over thirty radio stations across India. In 2011, the company expanded to include their over-the-phone social networking. Currently they are expanding to include urban areas to encourage more citizen-based awareness and monitoring of public services. The voice that has been given to the rural communities of India is expanding even further.
For more information, visit the Gram Vaani website.