Mobile Phones for Social Change and Behavioural Change: A compendium of 100+ initiatives in India

 

Publication date: 
October 2016
Author: 
Ritu Srivastava and Arjun Sen
Publisher: 
Digital Empowerment Foundation and UNICEF India

The rapid growth of mobile telephony has significantly changed the traditional way of communication. As an affordable and accessible means of communication, even rural communities have realised the potential of mobile telephony to create economic opportunities and strengthen their social networks. Mobile phones, by virtue of their role as carriers and conduits of information, ought to lessen the information asymmetries in markets, thereby making rural and undeveloped markets more efficient. It is no longer just an audio communication tool but enables access information anywhere and anytime. It offers means for collecting information and sensing behaviour as well as for the presentation of recommendations.

According to a IAMAI-KPMG report, India will have 236 million mobile internet users by 2016, and mobile internet userbase will reach 314 million by 2017. Used as a publishing and communication tool, it enables millions around the world to communicate instantly, gives the common citizen a voice among an audience of millions and serves as a huge multimedia library of information. There are increasing number of mobile-based projects, and the government, bilateral agencies, private sector players, and the civil society continue to invest in mobile-based practices that can provide local solutions in local context and problem areas.

Given UNICEF’s focus on sustainable and effective communications for development thrust involving the isolated and vulnerable groups, mobile application-based services are likely to prove valuable in achieving programming goals. Apart from connectivity and access for the deprived groups and communities, mobiles provide cost-effective interventions, enable to overcome bottlenecks to access and deliver services, and enable communities to maximise the impact of available resources. Keeping this in mind, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and UNICEF India initiated a project, Mobiles for Social and Behaviour Change (MSBC), to dive into the depth of various projects where mobiles are being effectively used by frontline workers in areas of health, education, nutrition, child protection, and monitoring & training of frontline workers. This project aims to study concerns around MSBC and create a formidable platform to provide knowledge on diverse MSBC-implemented projects and help in developing partnerships between state governments and MSBC players.

This compendium is a compilation of over 100 such mobile-based initiatives around education, health, civic participation, socio-economic development and disaster management well within the central focus of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We further aim to understand these mobile-based interventions broadly based on three categories – information and dissemination, monitoring and tracking, and support to frontline workers.