Besides making and receiving calls it doubles up as a radio for your favourite songs,as a camera,a telephone directory and may be a mini television. Various organisations including the Government are now increasingly using the phone as an educator too,arousing social awareness among people about HIV aids,climate change and much more.
The Central Bureau of Investigation used the mobile phone as a tool to catch officials who demanded bribes. The agency tied up with various telecom operators like Vodafone,MTNL,BSNL,Airtel,Reliance and Idea among others to send out to subscribers the agency’s phone number on which citizens could send details about those government officials demanding bribe.
The SMS campaign launched by the agency to create public awareness against corruption paid rich dividends with the agency claiming it had successfully laid 40 traps so far from September and complaints continued to pour in unhindered.
Likewise an SMS campaign to report child labour initiated by the Centre’s Ministry of Labour also received a good response.
Similarly,ZMQ software systems,an innovative software development and technology solutions company has come up with a large number of mobile games that guide and inform people on HIV aids,climate change,prenatal care and millennium development goals.
“A mobile phone is a very effective tool to put across messages. It’s a tool which has both continuity and reach,” says Krishna Durg,Head Mobile content Division,Reliance.
“The mobile phones are a unique communication gadget simplifying communication by breaking down barriers of rural and urban areas thus this device has immense potential to educate people. So we decided to use them to teach people on problems concerning them,” says Hilmi Quereshi,Co-founder ZMQ software.
He adds “Moreover people like to play games on their handset,this one interest of people can easily be exploited to pass on information on various issues.”
One of the pioneering initiative in arousing social consciousness through mobile games were a series of games on HIV/ AIDS. The games were made available through Reliance Infocomm initially and then on other mobile networks. The games were Health Mela,Safety Cricket,Ribbon Chase and a quiz.
“Cricket is like a religion in India with huge following so we made a game on it which the users will not only enjoy to play but also be educated on the disease as well,” says Quereshi.
‘Ribbon Chase’ is the game in which an HIV virus chases the player who protects himself by employing safety measures of HIV/ AIDS.
“The games had high downloads within days of it being launched. The number of users wanting to play the game increased gradually,” says Krishna.
“The games within a span of two years were able to reach out to over 45 million handsets with 10.3 million gaming sessions played. Since the game was highly appreciated among users later the same was replicated and implemented in Africa as well,” says Quereshi.
Games such as “connect2climate” create awareness on climate change. Others like “Energy expo” and “Mission Enlighten” players have to replace incandescent lights with more environment friendly bulbs and tubes.
“There is a growing number of mobile users in the country not only in the urban area but in the rural as well so concepts like mobile gaming are truly effective,” says Ranjana Saikia of the Delhi-based The Energy Research Institute (TERI).
“We have the general tendency to fiddle with our phone and while way our time by playing games. Gaining knowledge with playing is for sure the best method to educate people. It’s a way of learning with fun and so arouse social consciousness,” she adds.
Yet another game on development ‘Millenium Development goals chaser’ alerts the government as well the people on the millennium development goals.
“We are trying to upgrade this game wherein when a person chases particular millennium development goal then an alert will be send to the respective ministry,this will keep the government on tenterhooks and remind them we are lagging in our initiative to achieve these goals by 2011,” says Quereshi.
“The gaming sessions on mobile are in an interactive form to arouse competitive spirit through which they want to win the game as well apply the same in their life,” says Ranjana. Apart from it the mobile phones would soon be a doctor as well.
Women in rural areas will get prenatal advice via text messages weekly after she registers her date of pregnancy. “It’s not easy for everyone to visit the doctor frequently and most shy away from it. This initiative to be launched in January will make sure the mother is informed on what to eat,what vaccines to get and when a check-up is necessary,” says Quereshi.
“The use of mobile as social consciousness is effective since it has a multiplier effect,one fiddles with the cell and finds out something interesting then it is spread across and since these days everyone has access to cell phones the number of users grow and information is passed on in an easy way,” says Ranjana.