OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Apps vs. Analog: The Case for Creative Solutions in India

Insights from an interview with Indian NGO Breakthrough.

Photo of Shauna Carey
2 7

Written by

Breakthrough is an incredible operation. Across several states in India, the organization uses media campaigns, outreach and a "meet people where they are" strategy to catalyze social change and tackle society's pervasive patriarchy and gender discrimination. 

This week, I had the opportunity (along with a few other members of the Amplify team) to interview Shobha, who manages multimedia for Breakthrough, about their innovative programs and India's technological landscape. Here are a few quotes I found to be particularly insightful:

"Apps don't make sense in India. The population of people in India using smartphones is larger than the population of some countries, but compared to that number, the population without smartphones is HUGE."

"We have more phones than toilets, but illiteracy is high."

"We are launching a Board the Bus campaign in Delhi to help women reclaim the space."

"Pitching the one issue [of gender equality] in isolation doesn't work...and it never will in India."

Breakthrough is using a combniation of community radio, advertising campaigns and SMS to connect women. What other smart social netowork approximations exist that do not require Internet access?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Nathan Maton

Nice post Shauna. The third quote is particularly interesting because it goes beyond technology to the approach for this challenge. Did they say what would work better? Solutions that combine gender inequality with other problems and solve both? Was there any insight why that was a particular challenge in India?

Photo of Ryan

Shauna thanks for sharing some of this great primary research! There has been a bunch of discussion about how apps may not be the most feasible solution given the circumstances about smartphones in the population and also state of the infrastructure. Excited to see how these design constraints will push us all to truly innovate and spark creative solutions.

To turn these constraints on their head though:
-Could we use the small population WITH smartphones to champion safety somehow and act as hubs?
-How might we use the # of cellphones to our advantage maybe not technology but even awareness through where cellphone distribution channels?