PowerCutsIN: A video interview I did in Karcha Village

(originally posted on the PowerCutsIN Blog)

September 16, 2011: This is the house of Mr. Sukhdev from Karcha Village, Banda, Uttar Pradesh where I had a chance  to visit during one of my work visits.

In this report we hear Sukhdev highlight the following key points: [link to report]

  1. When the transformer at their village burns out and needs repairing, unless they pool in money to pay to the district electricity department, they do not get a replacement. Which technically seems to be a bribe.
  2. The load on these transformers is high since many people use wire tap to the source lines to draw electricity to their homes even without a connection, which adds extra load on the transformer beyond its capacity due to which it fires and goes bad.
  3. They have electricity for around 10 hours mostly only during the nights when the transformers are working.
  4. Due to electricity, his kids can study during the dark for a couple of hours.
  5. Using fans, when there is power helps them to get rid of mosquitoes & diseases caused by them during summers.
  6. When there is no electricity during the night its scary because of threat of theft in the village.

You can view the video here with English subtitles below: [YouTube link]

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Can a basic (mobile) phone be used for learning?

Recently in conversation with a school teacher, I was told by her how she used to clear doubts and answer questions of students nights before their examination, over lengthy phone calls. Does that ring a bell? We all did that during our school days, calling up friends or teachers and clarifying doubts or maybe even getting the whole lesson explained to you on phone. Let’s keep this thought in mind for a moment and move to the next picture.

Picture#2: Women health workers in India called ASHA sakhi have a major role to play in providing health care services in Rural India. We all know, mobile phone is something which everyone has these days, especially in Rural India where they often have two phones. Usually the ASHA’s would meet and greet from time to time to be made aware about new developments and given training. If we can connect say 20 of them, on a particular day of the month over a multi party conference call with an instructor who can tell them about new things it becomes easy and a good use of existing resources.

The way it works is the instructor using a service which lets him/her create a Voice Class room with students connected over a conference call and talk to them.

Design Considerations:

  • Accessibility: Input Methods are key presses on the numeric keypad of the mobile phone.
  • Content Creation: The learning happens real-time like a classroom where the content is delivered in the instructors voice.
  • Ubiquity: The lessons, if recorded can be made available to everyone which can be accessed anywhere, anytime. In any case active classroom sessions can be attended from anywhere over a phone.

A basic phone is all it takes, plus the idea of sharing knowledge over voice from our own location also makes it a lot easier.

Picture #3: If I can use the similar mechanism to impart any kind of training that can be delivered over “voice” to Visually impaired or Physically Disabled person at their homes using their phones. Would this work?

In any case I agree that education or knowledge sharing is something that has higher impact only when there is a face to face or physical presence involved between the instructor and the learner. But I am sure there are some kind of knowledge trainings, vocational or life skills that can be imparted over a mobile phone using voice. Because ICT Tools in learning should be tools to help learning, not tools to learn(to be able to learn something) and who needs to learn to make/receive a phone call?

[update] Just after I posted this, I found a service in Palestine that does something similar. Read: “How ICTs Can Empower Blind Students: Souktel’s New Audio Service in Palestine”