Free Phone for 35,000 Healthcare Workers (ASHAs) in Karnataka

Nearly 35,000 healthcare workers in Karnataka will receive free mobile phones to communicate with healthcare officials, doctors, nurses and also deliver work and training related information, according to a new report.

Karnataka’s Health and Family Welfare secretary, M Madan Gopal was cited by The Hindu saying that the health ministry will provide Closed User Group (CUG) SIM cards under a central government scheme. “The handsets will be procured through the Karnataka Health Systems Development and Reforms Project with World Bank assistance,” he told the news daily.

India has over 8.5 lakh community health workers, called Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), who work for the health ministry as part of the National rural Health Mission on a performance based pay. In states like Bihar which has over 70,000 ASHAs, a mobile money transfer scheme is being tried out.

Meanwhile, the Indian government is also planning to distribute millions of data enabled phones to the poor for free. The phones are being given out to make government services accessible and direct transfer of benefits easier.

Healthcare Workers Administering Polio Vaccine (Image Credit: rupa / Shutterstock.com)
Healthcare Workers Administering Polio Vaccine (Image Credit: rupa / Shutterstock.com)

In 2008, the Kerala government had launched Dr SMS, a mobile based solution to provide health information through text messages on a pilot basis. The service was linked to the health database maintained by the Government. It was later extended to other parts of the state which has over 70% mobile penetration and is slowly moving towards mGovernance from eGovernance.

The central government has also running an SMS based program called the Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS) through which everyday nearly 8 lakh text messages are sent for various uses like direct transfer of benefits under various schemes or information related to mother and child care.

The free phone for Asha workers scheme opens up several possibilities.

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