audio news services

Pick Up The Phone - The News Is Calling

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Mar 26, 2010

There are two new projects in India that are taking advantage of the ubiquity of mobile phones and cheap voice calling there in order to get news to rural villagers. Widespread illiteracy makes newspapers and SMS alerts inadequate as news delivery systems, and irregular electricity makes television and radio unreliable. Voice calls are also very inexpensive in India, with per-second billing and a downward price-war among the main operators. Voice calls over mobile phones are an easy way for villagers to stay informed.

In the region of Uttar Pradesh, Gaon Ki Awaaz delivers twice-daily news updates via voice calls to villagers in their native Avhadi language. Launched in December 2009, the project now has 250 subscribers spread throughout 20 villages. Read our case study on the project here.

Further south, a similar project is operating among the members of the Adivassi tribe in India. Like Gaon Ki Awaaz, it allows villagers to share and receive news over their mobile phones in their native language (in this case, Gondi). Launched by Shubhranshu Choudhary of the International Center for Journalists, the project focuses on citizen reports with dozens of citizen journalists reporting throughout the region. Watch the video below to see how the project works.  For more on audio services, see also our recent scan of projects and tools, Talk to Me: A Survey of Voice-Based Mobile Tech.

These two projects highlight the promise of the mobile phone for targeted news reporting; mobiles can provide cheap, reliable access to hyper-local news that may be more independent than government-controlled media. As mobiles become more common in rural areas, similar projects can provide a way to keep citizens connected. 

Anne-Ryan Heatwole is a writer for

Image courtesy screenshot of IFC Journalists video

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Countries: India