PCI India and 'JEEViKA Mobile Vaani' Answer Call for Action against COVID-19
When much of the world came to a standstill in the wake of COVID-19, one Indian social tech company answered the call for action.
Gram Vaani, which means "voice of the village" in Hindi, adapted its mobile phone-based social media platform - Mobile Vaani - to reach low-literacy, rural and remote audiences across India with important preventive messages against the coronavirus.
JEEViKA, a Rural Livelihoods Project in the state of Bihar implemented by PCI India with the Government of Bihar, has adopted Mobile Vaani as an effective and efficient medium to reach out to rural communities in need of information. This partnership is better known as JEEViKA Mobile Vaani (JMV).
Prior to the pandemic, PCI India was utilizing the service to educate and engage women's self-help group members in Bihar on health and nutrition issues through the JEEViKA Technical Support Program.
"This platform actually leads to local action, greater awareness and empowerment for development," said Aaditeshwar Seth, director and co-founder of Gram Vaani. To date, the company's Mobile Vaani network spans 20 districts in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh as well as over 30 community radio stations.
According to Gram Vaani, Mobile Vaani is an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that allows people to dial a 10-digit phone number. Users can leave a message about their community or listen to messages created by other community members, civil society organizations, government agencies, social enterprises and nonprofit partners. Depending on the context, the content is presented in the user's native language and delivered through a variety of formats including audio dramas, information snippets, quizzes, surveys, frequently asked questions and user-generated episodes. No sign-up is required to access the free content.
"JEEViKA [participants] are now more aware of the symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and COVID-19. They know whom to approach in the time of crisis," said Mahua Roy Chaudhary, programme coordinator of Governance and Knowledge Management at JEEViKA. "The IVR-based mobile messages have been an effective mechanism in building resilience at the community level."
JEEViKA [participants] are now more aware of the symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and COVID-19. They know whom to approach in the time of crisis.
Mahua Roy Chaudhary
Programme Coordinator of Governance and Knowledge Management at JEEViKA
As a part of the JEEViKA Technical Support Program, PCI India initially worked with Gram Vaani to develop messages for the platform about maternal and child nutrition, reproductive health and pregnancy. PCI India promotes the service among women's self-help groups and created a database of self-help group members who receive calls throughout the day. During the pilot phase, the intervention successfully reached more than 50,000 users in rural Bihar.
When the Government of India instituted a nationwide lockdown in mid-March 2020 due to COVID-19, Gram Vaani and its partners recognized an opportunity to leverage the Mobile Vaani network to reach and link rural populations with pandemic-related health information and social services.
JEEViKA, a Rural Livelihoods Project in the state of Bihar implemented by PCI India with the Government of Bihar, has adopted Mobile Vaani as an effective and efficient medium to reach out to rural communities in need of information. This partnership is better known as JEEViKA Mobile Vaani. Photo by PCI India Staff
"We have scaled up our services so that this platform can act as a means of informing and providing relief to hard-to-reach communities," Aaditeshwar Seth shared.
In the initial days of the COVID-19 outbreak, early work focused on developing and recording a series of audio messages based on common questions about coronavirus disease transmission, symptoms and preventive measures. More recently, messages have been developed in response to questions, feedback and personal experiences that self-help group members, migrant workers and other users have shared through the platform.
"With the help of information given by Mobile Vaani, I came to know about COVID-19 and steps like social distancing and regular hand-washing to prevent the disease," said Anita Devi, a JEEViKA community mobilizer in the Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. "Now I disseminate this information to the self-help groups for their awareness."
Between April 2020 to February 2021, more than 186,700 members in 14 districts of Bihar listened to over 2.2 million minutes of COVID-19 content on JMV's dedicated platform for COVID messaging.
"While COVID-19 uncertainties still continue, there is no time to waste," said Irina Sinha, director of Strategic Insights and Systems at PCI India. "The partners are working together to make the best use of JMV during this tough time, which is yielding encouraging results."
self-help group members in Bihar listened to over 2.2 million minutes of COVID-19 health content between April 2020 and February 2021.
Story by Maureen Simpson