Well, at least some of the USO Fund money is being utilized: The Indian government has launched Sanchar Shakti Mobile VAS scheme for providing information and training to rural women, providing them with information on health, social issues, government schemes, as well as livelihood related inputs training, for women self help groups in rural India. Note that the subscription to these services will be subsidized (and not free), and will be valid for a minimum subscription period of one year.

The following entities are offering the service: Reuters Market Light in Maharashtra and Uttarakhand, Tata Teleservices in Uttar Pradesh, Sasken Communication Technologies Limited in Tamil Nadu and Kerela, Uninor in Tamil Nadu, Videocon in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (hardly any users there) and Vodafone Essar in Andhra Pradesh. Note that we couldn’t find the pricing information for the services on telco websites. However, KnowYourMobile India, has mentioned Vodafone tying up with an Andhra Pradesh NGO, Ankuram Sangamam Poram, to equip and train women members of Self help groups attached with the NGO, to act as Vodafone retailers. Vodafone will also offer a customized icon based, GPRS Data Collection Application in Telugu for SHG leaders to upload income & loan activity related data to the NGO, in addition to an interactive, voice application in Telugu to deliver content on health, social issues and livelihood enhancement. The portal will also feature inspirational case studies from across SHGs and allow women members to record queries, responses as well as share their stories.

The content and its delivery will be customized for the Self help group members keeping in mind the socio-cultural background, literacy, language and gender sensitivity, and the government is targeting 15,000 self help group members, through SMS and IVRS.

The government will assist in setting up mobile and modem repair centers to be run by women self help groups in rural areas.