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Innovative mobile services on course to deliver profits and health gains at scale

 Innovative mobile services on course to deliver profits and health gains at
                                    scale

  PR Newswire

  LONDON, Feb. 26, 2013

LONDON, Feb. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- BBC Media Action in India has developed
a public-private business model for mobile health (mHealth) services that is
on track to reach millions of the country's poorest people with life-saving
information on maternal and child health over the next three years.

The services are available in Bihar, India, at the same low rates across the
state's main operators. They are some of the first mHealth education services
for low-income subscribers in the world to launch at scale, and with built-in
sustainability.

Sara Chamberlain, head of ICT in India for the BBC's international development
charity, says that more than three million minutes of content have been
accessed in Bihar over eight months. Providers including Airtel, Reliance and
Vodafone are seeing profit despite the services' low-income target group.

From the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Chamberlain says:

"In Bihar, almost all 15-49 year olds have access to a mobile phone. We struck
a deal with the mobile industry and state government to develop mHealth
services that are priced for the bottom of the pyramid, and can be used from
any handset by making a simple phone call. That's how we have been able to get
around the challenge of low literacy and limited technical ability, and go
quickly to scale."

"The government wants to help improve the health of mothers and their babies,
and the mobile operators want to see a return on their investment. With close
to one hundred thousand unique users accessing millions of minutes of audio
content, they're already achieving that and this helps secure sustainability
for the services."

The services, Mobile Academy and Mobile Kunji, were launched in May 2012 as
part of a Gates Foundation-funded programme to tackle high maternal and child
mortality in the state. Nearly 2 million minutes of content were accessed to
January 2013 on the Mobile Academy training course for Bihar's 200,000
community health workers, and 1.56 million minutes accessed on the Mobile
Kunji service that helps the health workers deliver crucial health information
to the mothers that they counsel, and their families.

Both services use Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to make audio content
available to even the most basic handsets. They are accessed via a set of
short codes, common across all the major mobile operators in Bihar, and common
tariffs, which are some of the lowest in the country. Health workers pay
around $1.50 over as many as 12 months to complete the training course. The
Gates Foundation is covering the cost of calls to the Toll Free Mobile Kunji
service for the first year, with the state government pledging to pick up the
tab from mid-2013.

Despite major economic growth, India still has some of the world's highest
maternal and child mortality rates, and poor access to healthcare and
information in many areas. BBC Media Action in India is already preparing to
launch in the state of Odisha and is in discussions with the national
government about rolling the services out across the northern states'

Chamberlain will present at the GSMA Mobile World Congress session on
innovating for global health and as part of a panel on the Pan African Mobile
Initiative (PAMI) at the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Summit on Wednesday 27th,
outlining the crucial elements to the model's success: making the services
affordable, user-friendly and accessible from any handset, localising content
and working with public and private partners to secure sustainability.

The model and Bihar case study are outlined in a new BBC Media Action briefing
Health on the move: Can mobile phones save lives?

Notes to editors

  *Sara Chamberlain is head of ICT for BBC Media Action in India. She will
    discuss the business model for the services at the Sub-Saharan Africa
    Regional Summit, Wednesday 27 February 2013, Auditorium 2, Hall 8.0, Fira
    Gran Via, Barcelona, 11:45 – 12:25 and Health: Innovating for Global
    Health which will take place on Weds 27 February from 16.00-17.30 at
    Auditorium 4, Conference Village, Hall 4
  *BBC Media Action is the BBC's charity for international development. It
    believes in the power of media and communication to help reduce poverty
    and support people in understanding their rights. Its aim is to inform,
    connect and empower people around the world. We work in partnership to
    provide access to useful, timely, reliable information. It aims to help
    people make sense of events, engage in dialogue, and take action to
    improve their lives.
  *BBC Media Action is an independent charity funded by external grants and
    voluntary contributions, mainly from the UK's Department for International
    Development (DFID), the European Union, UN agencies and charitable
    foundations. Registered charity number: 1076235. For more information
    visit www.bbcmediaaction.org
  *In May 2010, the Government of Bihar and the Bill & Melinda Gates
    Foundation signed a memorandum of cooperation to develop, test and scale
    up innovative solutions to improve the health and development of Bihar's
    families. The partnership aims to help the government of Bihar to reduce
    mortality rates for mothers, newborns, infants and children under
    five.This effort is being implemented in partnership with Indian and
    international non-government organizations, and is called "Ananya", a word
    meaning "unique" and "boundless" in Sanskrit.
  *OnMobile Global Ltd is BBC Media Action's technology platform provider –
    responsible for giving mobile consumers access to BBC Media Action's IVR
    applications and content. OnMobile's platform has been integrated with
    MOTECH – an open source software for delivering mobile health messaging,
    developed by the Grameen Foundation, with funding from the Bill & Melinda
    Gates Foundation.

Website: http://www.bbcmediaaction.org
Contact: Aoife Allen, Press, PR and Events Manager, +447827786612,
aoife.allen@bbc.co.uk; Sara Chamberlain, +91 9818278280, sarabbcwst@gmail.com
 
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