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Daily Pioneer features Jharkhand Mobile Vaani

Jharkhand Mobile Vaani recently featured in the Daily Pioneer, as a medium for communities in Jharkhand to connect to each other. See the story here

 

Mobile phone rings for the citizen journalists of J’khand

SUNDAY, 01 APRIL 2012 23:20
SANTOSH NARAYAN | RANCHI

Ramashray Ram from Simaria of Garwah district could not have imagined doing an anchor piece prior to  the days of the Jharkhand Mobile Samachar Sewa. Ram, a Dalit belonging to marginalised sections of the society, reports from his village about discontinuation of rations to him and several of his neighbours all of whom are living below the poverty line.

Thanks to Roshan Nair and like-minded software engineers from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Ram and many reporters like him can now get their problems heard by stakeholders such as Government authorities, elected representatives and social activists.

“We have taken forward the concept of community radio. Against the target of setting up 4,000 community radio stations by the end of 2010 by the Government, we have just about 300 in the country. The idea of community radio could not take off because of expansive applications involved. The idea of a mobile news service started from there. It is very simple technology. A user has just to make a call from his mobile to a number. His call gets ‘rejected’ and within seconds he gets a call from the server on his phone,” said Nair.

The technology, thus makes the service free for the users who, apart from being just a subscriber of the local news, can also contribute. Any information, happening or grievance can be recorded by pressing the specified number as one gets a call from 08800097458, apart from opting for news. The start of the mobile era even in the rural hinterlands is very likely to smoothen the way for the venture.

Earlier, a service of this kind was started last year with a toll-free number but the response was not so consistent. “We have tried to infuse a quality of community radio into this by introducing radio jockey. Specific programmes, for example on local governance or women rights, would be specified to a reporter. This would establish a connect between the listeners and the reporter,” said Aaditeshwar Seth of IIT-Delhi.

In its new avatar, the service would have 12 SIM-based numbers that would be routed on the one. The caller can get call from any number in the response of his missed call made on it. In this process, the user would not feel any congestion along with reduced cost bear by the promoters. “Toll-free number would cost us `1.60 for every call whereas the SIM-based system is costing as STD and just `1 for every minute,” added Seth.

Apart from sharing news, issues of social importance and system malfunction could be addressed by bringing the stakeholders on a common platform. It includes the troublesome circumstances such as discontinuation of food grains or missing electricity, troublemakers and troubleshooters.

“We aspire the Jharkhand Mobile Samachar Sewa to become a common platform for the common man and the authorities by using local social activists and NGOs as a conduit. The grievances publicised through the service can be taken up before the authorities by the social workers for redress,” clarified Seth. The news items, after being verified, would also be supplied to newspapers for much wider publication.

What made the highly qualified to sacrifice a greener pasture for working for community service of this kind in Jharkhand? “Need of community service is immense in the State. Application of technology can mitigate the woes of the people. Social activist Jean Dreze persuaded us to use our qualification in some way for the people of Jharkhand and this is the result of that,” said Seth, who prior to this, did not have any connection whatsoever from the State.  The promoters are going to organise one-day workshop on Monday to train locals about the service and make the number sufficiently popular among them. Activities such as conducting opinion polls on local issues, packaging top five stories and classifieds are also in the pipeline for the subscribers.