Gaon Ki Awaaz, India’s first mobile news service for rural India, has crossed yet another milestone.

The mobile news service that began broadcasting free audio bulletins as voice calls to villagers living in the Rampur-Mathura village of Sitapur district in December 2009 went paid this week.

On the very first day of the subscription drive, 42 of the 45 villagers who were approached paid the subscription fee.

“It is a great step forward for Gaon Ki Awaaz or Village Voice, “ says an ecstatic Satyendra Pratap, Editor of the service. “It shows that the villagers want news about themselves, and in their language.”

Divyakar Pratap Singh, the village reporter who generates the audio bulletins, was similarly overwhelmed. “The villagers happily paid the three-month subscription fee of Rs 30. They did not want their news bulletins to be stopped.”

Earlier, the local merchants had given a similar confidence vote to Gaon Ki Awaaz. A local cloth merchant was the first to release an ad in March 2010. Since then the village barber, tailor, Internet café operator, coaching centre owner and even the village astrologer have advertised their services.

The bulletins that are in the local Avadhi dialect are generated by two village reporters who travel in and around the villages to gather information. These are then transmitted as voice calls twice a day – at 12 noon and at 5 pm – to villagers living in 50 villages of Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh.

Initially the number of subscribers was limited to 20. In March 2009, this number was raised to 250, and the bulletins started reaching 50 villages.

“The villagers’ response shows that the model is working. It can well become the preferred news medium in rural India,“ says Pratap.

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