In this week’s reading, from Tim Unwin’s book ICT4D, there was a Case Study (page 162)that particularly interested me about an ICT4D project called LifeLines India.This project was focused on giving rural farmers the ability to access web based information that could help them increase economic growth and solve agricultural issues. The farmers could call in and leave questions on an automated voicemail, which were then researched by specialists who would respond within twenty four hours.
This is a service that caters specifically to the needs of rural India, where many people are illiterate and poor agricultural workers who could not access the internet for information. The project was a great success and when this book was printed in 2009 the service was aiding more than 100,000 farmers, was planning on expanding to more than 3,00o villages, and inspiring similar programs in other sectors. One independent study cited in the book says that the information aid increased product quality and productivity enough to have a 25-150% profit growth for the farmers!
I wanted to see how Lifelines India has fared in years since this case study was published, in hopes that the project has continued to prosper. The website lists that it now hosts not only Lifelines Agriculture, but also Lifelines Education for teachers. They have expanded to 2,000 villages in north-central India and now serve 200,000 farmers. In 2009 they were awarded Award for Social Responsibility by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP).
It is refreshing to see that Lifelines India has not only continued to help rural farmers, but also expanded and improved in the last three years. The project works well because it noted the unique needs of the communities that were being served and also used simple technology, such as telephones,to better connect the people.