Recently, there has been much talk on how to use mobile phones to increase the quality of life for the rural population. Most of these initiatives involve distributing cell phones to increase rural communication or connecting the individuals to the rest of the world by providing useful news to their mobile phones.
The Indian state of Chhattisgarh, a prime location of Maoist violence, needs something just like this in order to ensure the individuals living in impoverished rural tribes can still have a voice and not be forgotten. In order to do this, Shubhranshu Choudhary, with help from the International Center for Journalists, initiated the CGNet Swara. Swara is “a voice portal that allows anyone with a mobile phone to record or listen to news and items of interest.” People simply dial 1 to record information and 2 to listen to reports. The recorded information is then verified by a team before released to the public. Not only did this approach eliminate the barriers caused by the different language spoken in the tribe, but also targeted the concern of people who were unable to read or write in the community. In the first two years of the program, Swara had 9,000 users and a count of 30,000 phone calls. For example, one of the published reports was about unpaid worker wages in the rural community, which soon gained media attention. Other concerns brought up include security, police treatment, food programs, and the ownership of land.
While this program has made much progress and is continuing to advance in other communities, a couple of concerns still need to be addressed. As stated in the article, the organization is cautious not to publish unpleasant stories about authorities who are capable of closing down the program. In such a case, much of the information published may be biased and tailored to what the elite may see fit. Another concern is that much of the rural population does not have access to mobile phones and therefore would be unable to benefit from the service. Lastly, with the cost of mobile phones and charging equipment and the lack of electricity in much of the area, it makes it difficult to implement such a program.
Sources: CNN ARTICLE