Elizabeth Abraham and S. Ramkumar
The evolution of ICTs in the last few decades has seen its advent in delivering information related to agriculture and livestock development among farmers. With more number of people even in rural areas using cell phones, an opportunity to apply its potentials in disseminating information that would help in improving the socio-economic conditions of the rural poor was noticed. With this in mind, Cell phone Operated Mobile Audio Communication and Conferencing system (COMBACCS) was developed under Development Partnership in Higher Education (DelPHE) project of DFID, led by Rajiv Gandhi College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Puducherry. Since it was envisioned that a tool like this would be particularly useful in bringing information to the doorstep of the women, who are bound to their homes due to the family chores, it was decided to study its effectiveness among the Women self Help Groups (WSHGs). A study on Effectiveness of cell phone mediated audio conferencing system was thus carried out among livestock rearing WSHGs in Thrissur district of Kerala state. The objectives were to understand the effect of Cell Phone Mediated Audio Communication and Conferencing System (COMBACCS) among WSHGs as a knowledge dissemination tool, to study the perceptions of the WSHG members, resource persons, and other stakeholders about the use of COMBACCS and to identify the problems in its use among WSHGs. Statistically significant change in the knowledge level of the members’ pre and post audio conferencing was noticed. All members were convinced about the advantages and use of COMBACCS. Some of the important advantages mentioned were a scope for better interaction and clarification of personal doubts from home/neighborhood, saving money and time both for group members and resource persons, more people trained in less time and promoters can directly interact with the group members. COMBACCS was especially helpful in reaching members of WSHGs in rural remote areas, and addresses constraints of formal training. Cost of equipment, noises, and maintenance of equipment were cited as some of the limitations by WSHG members, resource person and promoters respectively.
Keyword: ICTs, Cell Phone, Audio conferencing, WSHGs;