Social media is more than just games
With the proliferation of internet on mobile devises, an unprecedented number of people find themselves connected online. In India, access to information and the internet has ballooned lately, largely influenced by some of the cheapest calling and data rates in the world. India has more than 960 million cell phone users, many of whom use smart phones. Increasingly, the use of WhatsApp has been adopted as a social sharing platform where messages, voicemail, pictures and short videos are shared both one-on-one and as part of groups.
While the use of WhatsApp may have begun as a tool for teenagers to talk to each other with minimal costs, CARE India has utilized the platform to create a peer sharing network in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha. In an education project located in the state of Bihar, teams of Academic Leadership and Community Coordinators, share their field experiences, images of project sessions, short videos and audio clips of capacity building programs. Over time, the use of WhatsApp has moved beyond a platform where success stories are shared and has become a platform where queries and difficulties are being posted. The users seek advice and inputs from their peers on the best way forward. It has connected staff together in a faster and more attractive manner than ever before; allowing us to learn about and address challenges, and successes in remote areas of the country, in real time. The use of the network has given support to these academic support workers, who would have otherwise been isolated from support networks of peers. The use of the technology has enabled the instant sharing and responses amongst peers which has enabled enhanced monitoring and program quality.
Thinking ahead to the future, CARE India plans on leveraging the platform to conduct of instant surveys, and collect stories of change. They also plan to connect staff in the field to experts based around the country to build a virtual technical support network. While the use of technology may be used for fun and games, it also has enabled teams like CARE India to make a big world a bit smaller, ensuring that our projects are responding to communities in live time, and supporting one of our most valuable assets: our field staff, and community volunteers and networks.