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Tracking Livelihood Entitlements for Rural Communities is a mobile phone-based initiative to track the efficiency of the government’s public distribution scheme for food, pension schemes and the rural job guarantee scheme. It has helped more than 2,000 families in Orissa’s backward Keonjhar district gain access to the public distribution system and has had an impact on some 46,000 families overall.

Soochna Se Samadhan is a phone-based advisory service that has helped farmers in 1,200 villages in 13 districts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh gain access to an information database and agricultural experts, who help them resolve agricultural issues, boost productivity and develop their business.

A voluntary service called Operation Asha, using a mobile phone-based biometric device, is helping two million tuberculosis patients keep a tab on medicine intake; failure to take the medicine on time leads to an SMS alert and a volunteer comes, ready to provide the dose.

These are among the 60 entries received from across the country for the Mobiles for Good Grant Fund Prize, instituted by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) in partnership with Vodafone India Foundation. Since launching the mBillionth Award and Manthan Award last year, DEF has been receiving a number of enquiries for the mentoring and funding of mobile-based innovations.

As the private sector and for-profit companies dominate the mBillionth Award nominations, DEF decided to invite special entries from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for a special 20 lakh grant that can help scale up non-profit initiatives with a proven record of social impact in India.

Private companies have also entered their social projects in the competition. Ten entries have been shortlisted by a jury.

Mobile phones are easily affordable and are a mass media tool. There are some 3.3 million NGOs in the country. It will, therefore, be worthwhile to think up of ways to encourage NGOs to utilize mobile phones for taking their services to the masses.

Osama Manzar is director of Digital Empowerment Foundation and curator, mBillionth Award. He is also a member of the working group for Internet governance at the ministry of IT.

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