LifeLines India leverages a mix of internet and telephone technologies to provide demand-based information, advice, and guidance to remote and rural communities in India through the medium of "voice, in the local language and within 24 hours." It consists of two services: LifeLines Agriculture and LifeLines Education. Formed in September 2006 under the founder partnership of British Telecom, Cisco Systems, and OneWorld, LifeLines Agriculture is an interactive voice response (IVR)-based helpline for farmers of two agro-climatic zones: Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand. Launched in September 2008, LifeLines Education first tested proof of concept with an implementation in West Bengal supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The service was thereafter adopted by Government of Rajasthan and supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), for implementation in all 33 districts of the state of Rajasthan under the aegis of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). The purpose of Lifelines India is to facilitate exchange of critical and timely information using the power of voice as the primary means of knowledge dissemination and information exchange.

Communication Strategies: 

LifeLines is an information and communication technology (ICT) initiative providing communities with access to a network of global expertise and a repository of context-specific knowledge. This question-and-answer (Q&A)-based service is available on both fixed-line/mobile phones, as well as on the internet.

For LifeLines Agriculture, the user dials the designated LifeLines number using a landline or mobile phone. Primarily, the LifeLines Agriculture helpline is run in the Hindi language, while people can ask questions in local dialects, too. The call first reaches the IVR system of the service, where the user is assisted by a voice menu to register his/her query. The query asked by the user is stored as a voice clip in the LifeLines' database server. At the backend, a knowledge worker (KW), responsible for processing the queries, logs in to the application through the web interface and views all the queries that have been registered in the system. The KW first looks up answers to these queries in the system's frequently asked questions (FAQs) database of over 600,000 queries. These can be looked up based on voice commands - that, too, in local language. If available in the database, the required answer is attached to the query in the form of a voice clip; otherwise, the KW forwards the query to relevant experts for answer. Once the query is answered by the expert, the LifeLines application alerts the KW. The KW then retrieves the answer from the expert and saves it as a voice clip in the FAQ database. This answer is then played back when the user calls the service for the answer to his query. The user can also retrieve the answer in text format from his / her village information centre. Furthermore, the system also allows the users to send photographs along with their queries for the experts' opinion. For instance, farmers can send pictures of their crops and cattle when they ask queries.

Similarly, LifeLines Education enables access to academic guidance and paedagogic advice to rural school teachers across Rajasthan - with the goal of aiding them in course of their day-to-day teaching-processes in the classroom, and helping improve the quality of learning for their students. As part of the West Bengal pilot, rural elementary schoolteachers were provided with academic support and instructional training, as well as mobile phones. The adaptation of the Lifelines India model for educational purposes was carried out under the auspices of the Quality Education and Skills Training (QUEST) Alliance, part of the International Youth Foundation (IYF)'s regional initiative, Education and Employment Alliance (EEA).

Lifelines Education aims to link teachers with training resource persons, subject matter experts, and field-level educational administrators. As with LifeLines Agriculture, the teacher dials a designated toll-free number and is guided by its local language voice response system (IVRS) to record his/her query. The system generates an ID in response to the query; this ID is used by the teacher to retrieve his/her answer when she calls the service the next time. Teacher queries are answered within 24 to 48 hours - by phone or email - by a qualified panel of experts. Every query after being processed goes into an FAQ databank, building up the knowledge base in the system and also aiding future reference. At a later phase, the service may enable collaborative knowledge development in the system, whereby teachers will also be able to respond to relevant queries posted and add to the information that comes from the experts. Local language interaction in voice mode is designed to enable the teachers to easily and proactively use the service.

Development Issues: 

Agriculture, Education, Technology.

Key Points: 

As of May 2016, LifeLines Agriculture reaches out to a total of 1,000 villages of India. The service has has benefited over 150,000 farmer households, and more than 350 queries are received from farmers on a daily basis. LifeLines Education reaches over 450,518 primary and upper primary teachers in more than 100,000 schools in Rajasthan.

Partner Text: 

British Telecom, Cisco Systems, OneWorld, QUEST, Vikramshila Educational Society, British Telecom (BT), USAID, UNICEF, SSA.

See video

>ShareIdeas website and EEA India page on the EEA website - both accessed on October 31 2008 but no longer in operation; posting by Tej Prakash to the Community Media Network on The Communication Initiative platform, April 30 2016; and Lifelines website, May 2 2016.