Empowering marginalized rural women

January 20, 2017 04:03 PM
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Mr Kamaraj has extensive experience in social work. He is working towards establishing a state of model community living in which poor and marginalized people will be socially, politically, economically empowered. He believes that organizing people, providing education and creating opportunities to enable the community to solve their problems by themselves will help create sustainable development.

What motivated you to work in this space?

Rural communities in the developing world have been impacted by macro-economic changes of the past few decades. For instance, the onset of globalization and the liberalization of the Indian economy have resulted in significant changes to the livelihood opportunities of the rural populace. These communities have been experiencing the effects of trade policies implemented at the national and international levels. Vidiyal was an outcome of these changes occurring in society. Vidiyal strives to enable poor and marginalized rural communities to socially, politically, and economically empower themselves. 

How is your organization leveraging technology for social good?

VIDIYAL strives to enable poor and marginalized rural communities to socially, politically, and economically empower themselves. Since many of the members of these self-help groups are illiterate, we rely on voice telephony and videos (CD / DVD) for training modules. 

How has your organization’s use of mobile technologies evolved?

In keeping with the profile of the self-help group members we work with, our use of mobile technologies is limited to voicemail, tele-conferencing, helpline provision, and voice based social networking (facilitated by sharing phone numbers of self-help group members). 

Is there scope for greater use of mobile technologies by NPOs? If so, in what ways?

Mobile technology, be they services based on basic telephony or through apps, are well suited to promote micro-enterprise related activities. For instance, information about setting up farmers’ producer companies can be disseminated through mobile phones, be it via an app or IVR. 

How important is it for NPOs to create apps?

Having successfully used voicemails to deliver timely and actionable knowledge to women goat herders, we believe there is immense potential for NGOs / NPOs to use apps. The issue of last mile delivery is one of the key hurdles mobile phones help overcome. 

Which user requirements did you aim to serve via your app?

Our aim was to bridge the knowledge gap which can be rampant in marginalized communities. Though animal husbandry related extension programs offer advisory services, far-flung communities may be unable to avail these services since the venues and/or timing may not be suitable for small holders. Our goal was to surmount these last mile delivery constraints through mobile telephony. 

What challenges did you face while creating your app and how did you overcome them?

We collaborated with different organizations to help realize the mobile based knowledge  delivery service:

  • Commonwealth of learning (COL) facilitated design of our Life Long Learning (L3F) initiative for goat herders.
  • Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) facilitated the mobile telephony infrastructure.
  • Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) provided expertise in content creation.

What advice do you have for NPOs planning to create an app?

VIDIYAL successfully leveraged an existing technology in the context of social capital, financial capital and human capital. Given the extensive feature-set of mobile phones, they can be used effectively to deliver services to a wide spectrum of user profiles. NGOs / NPOs planning to create an app should give primacy to user requirements while designing for flexibility to cater for different usage contexts. 

What factors did you consider while planning to build the app?

With regard to the goat rearing project, since we were addressing illiterate rural women, our focus was on simplicity. Towards this end, the daily advisories were delivered via push messaging whereby the beneficiaries could replay the messages at will. 

How has publishing the app helped your organization?

The service has been central to our efforts to bridge the last mile gap in existing agriculture/animal husbandry extension services. Using mobile technologies helped us reach underserved communities in a cost effective manner. 

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