FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.
Our “Aha” moment was when Gram Vaani team members Aaditeshwar Seth and Vidya Venkat were having a conversation at a coffee shop with Reetika Khera who was then doing field work on the implementation of NREGA in rural Jharkhand. She suggested that a system similar to CG Net Swara, where Jharkhand citizens could call up and report discrepancies in implementation of the scheme would help immensely in bridging the information gap.
During our first visit to rural Jharkhand, to get a pulse of the people who would eventually turn users, we found that several of their stories such as instances of land grab by large corporations or problems in getting wages on time, etc were never highlighted in mainstream dailies. We also saw how levels of responsiveness on part of the local administration to common grievances were very poor. We noticed also how mobile phone penetration levels were encouraging even in remote villages and people caught on easily to phone-based applications than use the internet, which requires computer operating skills. That is when we realised the true potential of a mobile-phone based interactive news system like this.
Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date
We formally launched the system in Jharkhand on July 20, 2011. Since then we have received over 60,000 calls with an average duration of 3 minutes. The number of unique callers on the system is over 6000 from nine districts primarily – Latehar, Khunti, Ranchi, Garhwa, Palamau, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Hazaribag and Lohardaga. We have published some 200 news reports so far. The latest can be heard over the phone, and the rest are archived on the web interface. On Aug 26 and 27, we organised a citizen’s journalism workshop in Ranchi and Khunti in which 110 participants from these nine districts attended who are now giving us news reports regularly.
For every citizen using this service the very act of speaking out is empowering. The fact that action is initiated on complaints posted by them gives ordinary citizens the power to raise issues like corruption in the bureaucracy which is a major developmental hurdle. In that sense, in the over one month since we launched, our system has benefitted every user so far by simply giving them a forum that not only hears them but also helps them to take concrete action or connects them to a larger network of activists who act on their behalf.
What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?
Our projected impact in the next 1-5 years is that while we would certainly have expanded our network of citizen reporters all over Jharkhand, we would also have ensured that government agencies and other NGOs regularly follow our reports. We would have empowered a large number of citizens to act as watchdogs on behalf of their community thus. In five years we would have fostered a citizen movement in Jharkhand and replicated the idea in other states as well.
The idea is replicable because such a phone number can be set up for every state in India and used to reach out to the common man. We hope to be able to set up such systems in other neighbouring states of Jharkhand such as Bihar, Orissa, north-eastern states which also face challenges of social development.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
To strengthen our regional presence and expand news coverage all over Jharkhand by building a core team.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
We want our current system working efficiently in the whole of Jharkhand, then begin pilots in neighbouring states