Case Study: LifeLines India

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:

  1. telephone networks are more readily available than the internet to the farmers
  2. many farmers cannot read at all
  3. 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.

J. Triplett

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2 responses to “Case Study: LifeLines India

  • stinamurph

    The LifeLines technology is nothing short of genius. Providing an invaluable service while establishing a sustainable business model is the sort of idea that can really change the world. I’m glad to hear that in addition to the already massive expansion of the LifeLines agriculture program over the last five years they have begun to address education as well. The plan listed in the book to also provide help with healthcare, microcredit, employment and disaster relief could result in this technology having a revolutionary impact on the lives of millions.

    Given the success of the program thus far, it seems like LifeLines could make serious headway in expanding beyond India. I would be surprised if foundations and even corporations were not willing to invest in spreading the model to other developing nations, though I realize that the organization is still relatively young.

  • stinamurph

    This seems like such a great use of technology with so many possibilities. I found the map on this page (http://lifelines-india.net/lifeline/geographical-outreach/index_html) very interesting. LifeLines has expanded so much within India, though it is still mostly located in the northwestern part of the country. I wasn’t able to find any information about it, but was wondering why such a successful program hasn’t expanded into other areas of India (lower rates of poverty? better access to the Internet? fewer farmers), neighboring countries like Nepal (fewer phone lines?), and other developing areas of the world like sub-Saharan Africa (language barriers?). Is this lack of expansion due to the specific reasons I listed (or others) or is it simply that LifeLines hasn’t had enough time to explore all of its expansion possibilities and implement their program in other areas?

    A. Conrad

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