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Insights on Mobile Phone Usage in India

With many folks discussing opportunities to enhance safety via mobile phones, I thought it could be helpful to share some insights on cellphone usage from on the ground in India.

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I'm a big fan of championing opportunities around mobile usage in low-income contexts. As we proceed towards our upcoming Ideas phase for this challenge – I think it's worthwhile many of us here considering that the way we use our phones and jump on new apps with high digital literacy can be very different to how things play out in low-income environments. 

Here's some quick insights I found on a recent BBC article –  Five Unusual Ways in which Indians Use Mobile Phones:

Missed Calls
Giving missed calls where the caller disconnects after a ring or two is hugely popular in India and is often used as a way to pass on "the message" without being charged for a call.

The Torch
Because of poorly lit streets and frequent power outages, many pedestrians in India carry torches. So when Nokia offered the "torch" feature on its popular mobile handset, it became an instant hit and soon other manufacturers too jumped onto the bandwagon.

The Radio
Millions of people use their mobile phones to listen to FM programmes and most of the low-end phones sold in the market now come with this feature.

Scanner / Copier
One of the most common uses of mobile camera in India is to scan or take photos of documents.

Ok – so that's just four out of five... so check the BBC article to read more

How might we leverage technology to support women's safety in ways which are locally relevant? Do others who have experience in low-income contexts have insights to share on how and why people are using mobile technology there?
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The Lyft or Uber Models Rebranded and Revised
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Ushahidi - an open source data collection platform
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Village Defense - a community that watches out for each other
Use geo data about crime history to notify users with phones via text/audio/or visual alert
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I used Watch Over Me App to help myself stay safe while returning home at night.
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Siamo sicure!


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I like the idea of introducing more technology into urban areas to empower women. I am not entirely sure of the feasibility of this idea, but I know that there are many companies that would be willing to sponsor such a program.
As far as leveraging technology, I think just giving women a portal to be able to reach out in a time of need or during a possibly dangerous situation or even during a time of mental distress, would immediately help them to feel more in control of their surroundings. Even just introducing a different kind of location technology on a cell phone where women could only be reached by the people they want to be reached by. Also allowing them to reach out to other women in their area in order to feel more connected, and more than anything like a community where they are no longer alone will allow them to begin to feel more comfortable in their respective areas.

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