Food, Clothing, Shelter … Cell Phone? How mobile communication is changing rural India

India Farm According to research firm iSuppli,“wireless communication now has spread to every nation, every age and every income level, becoming a basic staple like food, clothing and shelter”. What a crazy thought!

How could wireless communication, which many consider to be a luxury or a privilege, possibly be placed in the same category as basic human survival needs such as food and shelter?

As crazy as it seems, mobile phones and wireless communication are evolving into something so vital to our daily lives that such a thought may not be far off. And, as it turns out, in some areas, these basic needs such as food, shelter and health are actually dependent on wireless communication in ways you probably never imagined.

‘Cell Shakti’, a new wireless service launched by Indian service provider, IMImobile, is helping to empower and advance rural areas. The service provides Indians living in rural areas information on weather, health care, basic law and order and, most importantly, farming.

Many inhabitants of this area make a living by farming and have started to use the service for up-to-date information on things such as commodity prices. The service gathers information about crops and husbandry in each village and delivers it to users via SMS alerts or spoken messages before they even arrive to the village, saving the farmers significant time and energy.

Moreover, the farmers can use this information as well as regular updates on weather, also provided by the service, to help with crop planning – something they had to rely heavily on guesswork before.

It may be surprising to some that this type of innovation has found itself in even the most rural of areas. Some may argue that such technological advancement isn’t always a good thing, based on the circumstance. However, whatever your view on technological innovation, it’s hard not to agree that this particular service is, at the very least, simplifying the daily lives of this particular community and at the very best, helping it evolve into a more advanced community.

Here in the U.S., we use our mobile phones for tasks such as calling and texting, surfing the internet, sending emails, looking up directions, or paying our bills, and now, most of us could not imagine life without a mobile phone.  Will rural Indian farmers and others in less-developed areas who traditionally have not had access to wireless communication start to feel the same way? My guess is yes.

So, perhaps wireless communication isn’t quite as important as food, shelter and clothing. However, it’s clear that the line between these basic staples and wireless communication/mobile devices is becoming increasingly blurry every day.

Contributed by Jessica Boardman. Follow her @j_boardman

Image attributed to Flickr user antkriz. License terms at Flickr.