Vodafone Foundation's Mobile for Good Awards to drive innovation, circularise knowledge


In 1973, Motorola’s Martin Cooper introduced the mobile phone to the world. This fateful day was to charge a digital revolution at its height today. Once the internet and computer became household products, the need to shrink the universe into smaller and smaller devices grew larger and larger. What were once clunky phones have now been transformed into sleek communication devices that moonlight as gaming centres, internet browsers, journals, diaries, camcorders, application software platforms and planners.

The communicative and transformative power this technology holds is massive and still growing. Like any digital resource, mobile technology has now become sophisticated and pervasive enough for it to be used as a platform to generate effective and innovative solutions to community problems.

India has not been immune to this digital revolution. Its tele-density has reached nearly 72.18 thanks to the 893 million wireless subscribers and nearly 116 million smartphone users (as of 2014). This mobile phone penetration creates an immense potential for leveraging mobile platforms to address the informational and developmental needs of communities in, both, rural and urban India. The power of mobile technology has the potential to address India’s greatest challenges in health, education, business development, governance, equality and information access.

In the Millennium Summit 2000 of the United Nations, 189 member states of the UN and various international organisations adopted the UN Millennium Declaration – the Millennium Development Goals were established (MDGs). These were 8 Goals that ranged from eradicating poverty, hunger and gender inequality to achieving universal primary education, combating diseases and ensuring environmental sustainability. As India ventures out to fulfill these commitments, the Vodafone Foundation, too, is ready to face a multitude of challenges set against the nation in health, education, innovation and knowledge sharing.

Vodafone Foundation’s Mobile for Good Awards (M4G Awards) is one such social initiative geared to hunt nascent talent and innovative mobile solutions from Non-Governmental and Non-For-Profit Organisations in India. M4G Awards hopes to not only drive innovation and circularise knowledge, but enable people with the help of technology, with the simple aim of making lives better.

Introduced in 2011 under the mBillionth Award and founded by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), the M4G initiative has had three successful years of funding and mentorship in India so far. Over these last three years, M4G has supported 13 social organisations using mobile technology in the areas of m-health, m-education, m-governance and m-business inclusion.

Vodafone’s Connected Women report, released earlier this year, presented a number of case studies of how connected women can improve education, health, safety, work and reduce loneliness thanks to mobiles (see HerStory coverage here).

This year too, the Awards programme was ready for pioneering social projects that leveraged mobile-based applications and technology in two categories: ground-breaking projects at an implementation stage from at least a year, and innovative ideas and concepts by all stakeholders. Their success, scalability and sustainability was the focus of selection.

The M4G Awards (2014) includes a funding grant of INR 6,000,000 or sixty lakh rupees. This will provide the 5 winning NGOs/NFPs access to crucial funding of INR 1,200,000 each, over one year, through the Main Awards category. This is besides the structured mentoring, monitoring and impact evaluation from institutions and incubators to upscale their ideas. The Special Awards category focuses on innovative ideas that apply technology for development, providing them a great platform for recognition. 

The M4G Awards works in five important areas of development this year: m-women, m-education, m-health, m-governance and m-agriculture.

To this effect, 35 organisations were shortlisted from numerous applications for the year 2014. In the m-health area, Suyojana (Swasti Health Resource Centre), a mobile application that provides decision support to auxiliary nurse midwives in maternal and neonatal care, for instance, was one of the shortlisted products.

The Shola Trust, on the other hand, has developed a platform for conservation through crowd-sourced wildlife information collection. AGRO-MET is another service by the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) that seeks to benefit farmers of rural rain-fed regions by providing weather-based, crop and locale-specific agro-advisories services.

Nirmaan Vidya, another shortlisted organisation, has developed the Vidya Helpline to assist students with accurate and timely guidance and information; whereas, Samarthanam has created Digital Book Library, a mobile-based solution for print-disabled persons in the age group of 15-35 years to promote inclusive education.

Under the m-governance category, Peer Water Exchange’s PWX Mobile Reporting is an internet-based platform for project selection, integration, implementation and long-term monitoring of community water projects, effectively transforming this sector from a command-and-control bureaucracy to peer-based community decision-making.

Because, mobile technology has such an incredibly permeating presence in India and still growing exponentially, the Vodafone Foundation is determined to enable social change on a large scale through this platform.

M4G has one calculated objective: “Transforming lives” by addressing critical social issues through mobile technology as an innovative platform. There is a dire need to support initiatives that have bright prospects to make them scalable and sustainable to see significant and quantifiable positive change in all strata of society, especially the underprivileged one. With this in mind, M4G Awards was all to set to discover at least one remarkable mobile solution with a distinct social benefit to impact community.

Since its launch in 2011, Vodafone Foundation’s Mobile for Good Awards programme has supported the growth and expansion of 13 such applications thus far and the winners this year have much to look forward to. We received over 122 applications and our eminent jury spent considerable time understanding the impact and scalability of each application before diligently selecting the winners in each category.” Rohit Adya, Director, External Affairs, Vodafone India

On November 18th, Vodafone Foundation Mobile for Good Awards 2014 announced its winners in Delhi.

Announcing the winners, Marten Pieters, MD & CEO, Vodafone India, said, “With over 900 million users and 90% penetration, mobile phones have become a part of almost every household in the country. This gives a unique opportunity to leverage their reach to connect, engage, develop content and deliver solutions via meaningful applications that can drive positive social and economic change, even in regions and among communities otherwise difficult to reach. We are excited by this opportunity and remain committed to support new ideas, innovations and applications that have the ability to transform society across domains- health, education, empowerment, inclusion and governance.”

 In the Main Category, the five winners were:

Self Reliant Initiatives through Joint Action (SRIJAN), a mobile-based soya crop monitoring system that enables women farmers increase profitability, productivity and efficiency.

Operation ASHA’s TB Contact Tracing and Active Case Finding software. It increases detection rates and diagnosis of potential patients.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog‘s (SSP) Arogya Sakshi, a mobile app that helps rural women entrepreneurs deliver door-to-door preventative healthcare.

Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Medical Trust‘s Eye Connect, a customised mobile application to overcome eye care challenges in remote areas.

Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action‘s (SNEHA) Little Sisters project, which helps tackle social issues like domestic violence with mobile technology.

In area of m-governance, Surat Municipal Corporation‘s Citizen Connect SMS was given special mention. The app empowers citizens with access to information and grievance redressal of local government services.

In the Special Category, the winners were:

Jayalaxmi Agrotech, for developing an app to provide farmers crop-specific information.

Chinh India, an early education web channel featuring films for children, made by children.

Infocrats Web Solutions Pvt Ltd, for developing Citizen Cop, an app that allows citizens to help in policing

Tech Services India Pvt Ltd, for JumpinJumpout, a vehicle-sharing application

Dimagi Software Innovations Pvt Ltd, CommCare for CRS ReMiND (Reducing Maternaal and Newborn Deaths), and helping ASHAs improve quality of home visits.

The ceremony was graced by Mr R Chandrashekhar, President of NASSCOM and former Union Telecom Secretary, who said, “The success stories from the Mobile for Good Awards programme clearly indicate how rapidly the trend is accelerating and impacting several domains at once.”

Osama Manzar, the Founder & Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation, the implementation partner of the programme added, “There is tremendous creativity amongst the non-profit organisations about the usage of mobile and mobility applications. With the help of the Mobile for Good programme we are trying to help the existing innovations achieve scale and replication.” 

Find out more on the Vodation Foundation site, or follow them on Facebook or @vodafoneIN_fdtn.

For more information on the winners and applicants, visit www.vodafone.in/mobileforgood


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