Convergence for Amplification: How Mobiles can help India march ahead
Nokia is back in vogue.
With the re-launch of the iconic 3310 it aims to arm the young with yesteryear’s gold. Yet its tagline never went out of fashion, even if its phones became an eyesore. Two words which have been rightly appropriated by an entire industry, for it has tided over geographical distances and indeed “connected people”.
With internet penetration rising steadily (current estimates peg the figure at 31%) the present government is keen to leverage its power through the reach of the cellphone (overall tele-density is around 92.59%). A report published by Internet and Mobile Association of India in December 2016, posits that 77% of urban users and 92% of rural users cited cellphones as the preferred device for surfing the net. No wonder that the famed trio of Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile (popularly called JAM) has been brandished by the government to curb corruption and eliminate poverty. Applications like Meri Sadak have been developed to allow the people to circulate their concerns to the designated nodal officers so that the parent schemes (like Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadhak Yojana) can be a properly implemented.
Tablets and applications customized for lower end phones are being used to conduct interviews. This facilitates a better retention of the data, which can act as a barometer for assessing improvements in the future.
A multitude of non-governmental organizations are also working on the ground to improve the service delivery mechanisms of the government. In order to assess the efficiency of the current dispensations, these entities mostly conduct surveys, where the intended beneficiaries are questioned about the workings of the local administration. This serves as a parallel audit of government services and the findings are then passed onto the concerned departments within the state machinery.
In order to cover large swathes of the population, tablets and applications customized for lower end phones are being used to conduct these interviews. This also facilitates a better retention of the data, which can act as a barometer for assessing improvements in the future.
These devices can also be used for accumulation and dissemination of vital information. A case in point is the mobile application that has been developed by Swaniti Initiative and Centre for Catalysing Change for continuously informing the Member of Parliaments (from four different states) about the status of maternal healthcare in their respective constituencies.
Constant civic engagement is the life-blood of any democracy. This constancy is what makes it a revolutionary process, and in India the smartphone industry is definitely fuelling the revolution.
Rahul Mohan is a former member of the Data team at Ank Aha