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Mint, the business daily from The Hindustan Times Group, has run a detailed report on Gaon Ki Awaaz.

The report titled “Phone news bulletins to empower rural India” was published on June 14, 2010, as part of the series that the newspaper is running on innovative mobile projects that have been nominated for the mBillionth award.

Click here to read the full report on Livemint.com.

Gaon Ki Awaaz continues to make waves. After mobile media, it is the turn of mainstream media to take note of the voice based mobile news project.

The Hindu in its Delhi editon carried a detailed report on Gaon Ki Awaaz titled: News at your fingertips.

The report notes:

New Delhi-based International Media Institute of India has started an initiative called ‘Gaon Ki Awaaz’ by which it sends out news to subscribers twice a day ontheir mobile phones. The news subjects of the service vary fromalerts on health camps to local events, local Government announcements and farming tips.

Read the full report.

MobileActive.org, one of the best websites on mobile phone projects, has done a big story on Gaon Ki Awaaz.

The story, headlined Gaon Ki Awaaz: News alerts for rural villagers, notes:

One call can bring news to hundreds in rural villages in India. Gaon Ki Awaaz, which means “Village Voice” in the Avhadi language, sends out twice-daily news calls to subscribers directly over their mobile phones. Launched in December 2009, the project recently expanded to 250 subscribers spread over 20 villages.

Read the full report.

Pluggd.in, which runs reports on start ups in digital space, has taken note of Gaon Ki Awaaz in the story Gaon Ki Awaaz bringing local news to rural India.

Noted Plugd.in:

Gaon ki Awaz is an interesting project, launched in Rampur-Mathura village and is defining how local news is delivered in the rural villages, which are devoid of TV/Internet and other medium [especially for hyperlocal context].

Read the full report.

The Gaon Ki Awaaz project has found an echo far beyond Rampur-Mathura, the dusty Uttar Pradesh village, where it was launched in December last year.

The project, initiated by the International Media Institute of India, was used to illustrate how the new technologies are being tapped to take information to communities that did not have access to them earlier.

The reference was made by Professor George Brock, Head of Journalism, City University London while delivering the Inaugural Address at a London hall on March 17.

In his thought-provoking address titled “Is ‘news’ over?”, Prof Brock described journalism as a “word wandering around in search of a definition” and spoke of “internet’s riches arriving on a mobile phone, equipping the poor with information which they haven’t had before”.

He illustrated his point by explaining how the villagers of Rampur-Mathura were benefitting from the new technology. “The villages may or may not have access to radio or television, but if they do, little of that news is local enough to matter. But everyone has a mobile phone, “ explained Prof Brock.

“A couple of people in each village, chosen as reporters, gather the stories. They may be thefts, fires, holes in the road, floods, births, deaths, prayer meetings. They record the stories in the local dialect and send them to an editor, who can filter and perhaps add in region-wide information on crop prices, weather forecasts or even advice on sanitation or childcare.

“A company in Hyderabad then sends the “news” back as a voice call. Thanks to speakers on phones, the twice-daily bulletins have become a social event.”

Prof Brock in his powerful address described “the trajectory of change” and its implications for the news industry.  The underlying thought in his 6,317- word address was that change may be upon us but it should not be allowed to sweep away the ideals of journalism.

Click to read the full address .

Yahoo! India carried the following report on Gaon Ki Awaaz:

Rampur-Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Dec 13 (IANS) It is not yet 5 p.m. but the light has started fading in Rampur-Mathura, a village of barely 5,000 people, in Sitapur district. A group of village elders settle down comfortably in wooden chairs around a small fire lit under a tree.

It is here that they gather every evening to discuss the day’s events before retiring for the night. Until now, the village’s busybodies used to keep them informed. But now they have a new source of information — Gaon Ki Awaaz (The Village Voice), a pathbreaking audio bulletin broadcast on their mobile phones that comes for free.

‘The wait begins at least 10 minutes before 5 p.m.,’ says Satyendra Pratap, the village chief and a key link in the rural broadcast.

‘Most villagers now know the number from where the call comes, and pick up the phone on the first ring. They listen intently to the audio bulletin, and then break into an animated discussion of what they have heard,’ he adds.

The path-breaking mobile bulletin broadcast twice a day – at 12 noon and 5 p.m. – is the brainchild of the International Media Institute of India (IMII), a journalism institute which was set up early this year in Noida with the help of the Washington-based International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and the New Delhi-based Society for Policy Studies (SPS).

Dave Bloss, a Knight International Fellow who works as an academic consultant to IMII, is delighted by the buzz. ‘This is the first time that the mobile phone is being used as a broadcast tool for communities living in rural areas and the response has been heartening,’ he says.

Sunil Saxena, dean of IMII, attributes the popularity of the mobile broadcasts to the fact that they are generated by the villagers and focus on what is happening in the village. ‘Most importantly, they are in their language,’ he points out.

Thakur Virendra Pratap Singh, one of the recipients of the news bulletins, concurs. ‘What’s most exciting about Gaon Ki Awaaz is that it is in Avadhi and of immediate relevance to us,’ Singh told IANS.

He gives the example of two bulletins. One informed the farmers of 18 tonnes of urea being allotted to the village. Another bulletin gave the time and details of a religious discourse and yagna being organised in the village by a Haridwar mutt.

The audio bulletins are a great leap over text-based SMS news alerts, says Saxena. ‘One, they overcome the illiteracy barrier. And two, they go out as recorded voice calls that can be accessed on the simplest of mobile phones.’

Currently, the audio bulletins are broadcast to a closed user group of 20 villagers. ‘Their feedback is reviewed by the IMII Faculty and communicated to the two village reporters to make the bulletins more focused,’ Jody McPhillips, a Knight International Fellow working at IMII, told IANS.

The institute’s plans are ambitious. Bloss, who believes the rural bulletins on mobile phones can redefine the way news is communicated, says, ‘IMII plans to scale the broadcast to 500 users by mid-January, and then extend it to the neighbouring villages.’

The institute has set up a blog (https://gaonkiawaaz.wordpress.com/) where the audio files of the bulletins, which are in local Avadhi, and their English translations are hosted every day. The English translations are also published on http://www.twitter.com/gaonkiawaaz.

Audio bulletins

The Gaon Ki Awaaz bulletins, which are broadcast twice a day on mobile phones, are also published on this blog. You can find the audio files, which are in Avadhi dialect, arranged date-wise under their respective months. You can also browse the English translations of selected bulletins. These are filed under their respective categories.

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