For this post, I looked deeper into the case study of LifeLines India (found on pp 162-3 in the Unwin text). First, I will provide a brief summary of the information offered in the text. Next, I will share some of the information I found in further research of the project.
As stated in the text, LifeLines India is a telecommunications project which was established as a joint effort between OneWorld South Asia, British Telecom, and Cisco in 2006. This program attempts to use the internet in conjunction with voice technologies to “help alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development.” This combination of technologies is appropriate for the situation of a rural Indian farmer because:
- telephone networks are more readily available than the internet to the farmers
- many farmers cannot read at all
- even the farmers who can read still often face a language barrier, as much of the information on the internet is in English
The program works in the following way: farmers call a hotline and leave a voice mail with their specific question. Next, “knowledge workers” find the answer in a vast database. The farmer calls back 24 hours later to hear the response to his question, thus overcoming the obstacle of literacy.
The program was initially implemented as a small-scale pilot program in 85 villages. In the time since the pilot, the service has been expanded to reach a staggering 2066 villages, and the creators had a goal of using the same technologies and processes “to address additional topics, such as education, healthcare, microcredit, employment and disaster relief.”
To find more about the project and its current state, I visited the program’s website (http://liveliness-india.net). According to the most recently available information, the project has now expanded into the field of education as well as agriculture. Now, over 200,000 households access the data base for agricultural inquiries, while over 455,000 teachers in nearly 106,000 schools use the service to get both answers to questions and general teaching advice. The knowledge workers receive around 500 calls per day, and over 95% of the calls are answered within a 24-hour period.
Additionally, the website includes testimonial stories from farmers and teachers who have been able to better perform their jobs through this service. While I found no evaluations or monitoring reports from third parties, the program has received multiple international awards, as well as recognition from the United States Congress.
This ICT4D case study provides an excellent example of a way in which multiple technologies may be adapted and used to promote economic growth and equality.