Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Lifelines India

Lifelines was launched in October 2006 through a partnership between Cisco, British Telecom, and OneWorld. The goal of Lifelines is to help rural farmers in India improve their efficiency and earning potential by providing critical and timely answers to agricultural and veterinary questions. Roughly 65 percent of workers in India are farmers, so crop failures or cattle illnesses can be catastrophic for individuals and the economy.

In India, where farmers have limited access to timely sources of information and are often illiterate, the telephone is the most powerful medium for information delivery. As a result, Lifelines comprises a phone-based information system that enables farmers to call the service line, submit their queries, and call back after 24 hours to hear responses provided by specialists from the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals.

The Lifelines service blends a Cisco Unified Messaging platform with an online application that is used to forward queries to experts or pull answers from an FAQ database of approximately 40,000 items. Farmers pay a small fee of 5 Rupees (approximately 12 cents) to help sustain the cost of the service as it moves toward self-sufficiency.

Lifelines, which was initially launched in 85 villages, is now used by approximately 40,000 farmers in 700 villages, and handles an average of 300 calls per day. An independent study of farmers in three villages who use the Lifelines service showed an increase in product quality and productivity, resulting in 25 to 150 percent profit growth.

Callers are greeted with the service name; “Soochna Se Samadahan” (Information is Solution) and prompted to record their query on an automated voicemail system. The farmer is given a reference number (query-id) by the system and told when to call back for an answer.

The query is processed by a OneWorld sponsored knowledge worker in a central office who first searches the voice database of frequently asked questions. A database of over 88,000 ‘frequently asked questions’ has been built, enabling knowledge workers to provide a very timely response to repeat queries.

If a solution is on the database the knowledge worker attaches the voice response for the farmer to access as soon as the following day. If the issue is new, before recording the reply the knowledge worker seeks advice from a specialist from the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals (ISAP).

The two calls – one to record the query and the second to retrieve the answer – cost the farmer just five Rupees, around six pence. This small charge serves a dual purpose. Firstly, the farmers value and respect the information they get because it is not totally free. Secondly, it enables us to create a sustainable business model.
Cisco Public Information. Corporate Social Responsibility © June 2008 Cisco Systems, Inc.
OneWorld South Asia Lifelines India to empower farmers with information
BT Lifelines India V1 Pdf file, 4 pages
Making E-Agriculture Work through Public Private Partnership in Asia Final report On-line Discussion March 10-28, 2008