After launching text updates for news via SMS in English last year, All India Radio has extended the service to include 5 regional languages including Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Dogri, and Nepali, reports AIR. Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar said that more regional languages added to the service over the coming years. The SMS service was initially launched in September 2013.

Speaking at the launch, Javadekar said that messages need also to be sent in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada, Gujarati, Bengali and Oriya, although he agreed that SMS scripts might be an issue. For those who are interested, one can sign up to the service from its website, or alternatively they can also send an SMS to 7738299899. Importantly, notifications via texts are also free from any data charges. Teleanalysis points out that the SMS service already has 300,000 subscribers.

Javadekar pointed out the importance of distributing news across multiple platforms, saying that the challenge for AIR is that only FM Radio is available on mobile, and AIR, which operates on AM, isn’t available. The SMS service addresses this gap. A vast majority of Indians don’t carry an Internet enabled handset, and the data connectivity is not reliable at all places.

Read: Should the Indian government mandate Indic languages for mobile handsets? (includes inputs on font issues)

News agency planned

Javadekar also pointed towards plans to create a news agency combining Doordarshan (TV) and Akashvaani (All India Radio), combining their base of news correspondents. He didn’t put a timeline to this, but said that an agency will be created.

Recent developments around government SMS services

Note that the Indian Railways is also planning to introduce an SMS alert to notify the passengers about their destination. Also, IRCTC, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways that handles online ticketing, alongside catering and tourism also plans to start taking food orders via SMS.

Besides that, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board recently announced that it would soon start alerting people via SMS about water supply timings.

(with inputs from Nikhil Pahwa)