In a geographically and culturally diverse country like India, connecting with rural masses in far-flung pockets has traditionally been a challenge. But thanks to technological innovation in the last couple of decades, there is one medium which is fast emerging as a vibrant tool to fix this gap- community radio. Gram Vaani is one such technological platform which testifies the theory that the local radio networks can go a long way in the rural empowerment.
Gram Vaani is a platform which works to empower communities through innovative technology interventions and thus improve their lives through access to markets, governance delivery and effective connectivity with information galore. Given its success in certain pockets, Gram Vaani today is considered to be voice of the rural medium with a greater impact as compared to other radio platforms since it is technologically more advanced facilitating wider penetration in the rural landscape.
Gram Vaani was started in the year 2009 by Dr. Aaditeshwar Seth who is currently also a professor and teaches IT at IIT Delhi. The mission behind Gram Vaani was to empower the villagers in the true sense of the term and ultimately assume the positioning of being a platform that represents ‘voice for the villagers’ and ‘of the villagers’. As it gives a platform to share their views, ideas or comments etc, rural people get a platform to communicate directly in the real time when the programme is broadcast. Nothing surprising, it has become a very popular communication medium in the villages where it has been adopted. So much, that it is believed to be scoring over other communication mediums in the villages where Gram Vaani is available now.
On a cumulative basis, Gram Vaani is the sum total of a jost of technological applications – each with their own cutting-edge utility. It encompasses ‘GRINS’ which refers to (Gramin Radio Integrated Network System) that automates the operations of a terrestrial radio station, providing the ability to have two way engagement with the listeners. Gram Vaani also offers platforms like V-automate, which is a suite of innovative platforms that helps the user to improve their processes, thus driving efficiencies and improving the KRAs and other important aspects of the programme.
There is another very interesting platform called MobileVaani, which is a unique social media vertical addressed at those communities who do not have economic means to pay for internet or for devices that can connect to the internet. This social media platform runs exclusively on Mobile networks and generates rich voice/audio content. It is reportedly generating great traction in communities that never had any access to known mass mediums like radio, TV or cinema. The effectiveness of this product is well visible in the state of Jharkhand where the localised version ‘Jharkhand Mobile Vaani’ is currently serving communities in 21 districts registering average 2000 calls per day, with approximately 3000 unique mobile numbers and listeners added every month. The promoters of the service claim to have a database of 45,000 mobile numbers and this impressive telebase is multiplying every month. These numbers represent 45,000 families living in remote rural geographies who have been interacting with communities far and beyond their known areas of influence.
Gram Vaani basically broadcasts various range of programmes for every section of the rural society. There are programmes on agriculture, health, education and entertainment which includes folk music as it is what people understand in the rural area. Arguably, the most important contribution which Gram Vaani is making by way of bridging the gap between the rural and the urban masses. Villagers who were earlier unaware of many facts pertaining to outside of their catchment area no longer have a cocooned existence now in terms of information inflow. And this helps in myriads of ways as beneficiaries testify.