Communication Infrastructure and Community Mobilization

The Case of Gram Vaani’s Covid-19 Response Network for the Marginalized in India

  • Hua Wang University at Buffalo Buffalo, New York
  • Aaditeshwar Seth Indian Institute of Technology Delhi; and Gram Vaani Community Media, New Delhi, India
  • Mira Johri Centre de recherche du CHUM; and École de santé publique de l’Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada
  • Esha Kalra Gram Vaani Community Media, New Delhi, India
  • Arvind Singhal University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, USA; Inland University of Applied Sciences, Elverum, Norway
Keywords: Covid-19 response, India, rural, migrant workers, Gram Vaani, Mobile Vaani, communication infrastructure theory, community mobilization

Abstract

In this article, we employed communication infrastructure theory (CIT) to analyze Gram Vaani’s (“Voice of the Village”) Covid-19 Response Network in India. We reviewed key CIT components (i.e., storytelling network and communication action context) and their applications in civic engagement, health disparities, and crisis mitigation. Our results showed that Gram Vaani’s Covid-19 Response Network merged all three types of CIT application into an integrated whole and extended it to marginalized rural and migrant/resident worker communities in India. In 15 months, 870,000 individuals used the organization’s Mobile Vaani platforms, made 2.5 million calls, recorded 24,880 voice reports, and shared 2,327 impact stories. Taken together, they amplified the voices of the most vulnerable, provided direct assistance, and held government agencies accountable in three major areas: health promotion and healthcare access, livelihood support and working conditions, and safety nets and essential services. We identified (1) storytelling network actors at all levels (micro, meso, interstitial, and macro), (2) enabling and constraining communication action contexts of pandemic community mobilization, and (3) specific impact pathways for different storytelling network actors to overcome barriers and leverage Mobile Vaani as an enabling and empowering communication action context. This first CIT application and articulation of pandemic community mobilization in the Global South holds important implications for better serving the needs of the marginalized and information have-nots.

Author Biography

Arvind Singhal, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, USA; Inland University of Applied Sciences, Elverum, Norway

In this article, we employed communication infrastructure theory (CIT) to analyze Gram Vaani’s (“Voice of the Village”) Covid-19 Response Network in India. We reviewed key CIT components (i.e., storytelling network and communication action context) and their applications in civic engagement, health disparities, and crisis mitigation. Our results showed that Gram Vaani’s Covid-19 Response Network merged all three types of CIT application into an integrated whole and extended it to marginalized rural and migrant/resident worker communities in India. In 15 months, 870,000 individuals used the organization’s Mobile Vaani platforms, made 2.5 million calls, recorded 24,880 voice reports, and shared 2,327 impact stories. Taken together, they amplified the voices of the most vulnerable, provided direct assistance, and held government agencies accountable in three major areas: health promotion and healthcare access, livelihood support and working conditions, and safety nets and essential services. We identified (1) storytelling network actors at all levels (micro, meso, interstitial, and macro), (2) enabling and constraining communication action contexts of pandemic community mobilization, and (3) specific impact pathways for different storytelling network actors to overcome barriers and leverage Mobile Vaani as an enabling and empowering communication action context. This first CIT application and articulation of pandemic community mobilization in the Global South holds important implications for better serving the needs of the marginalized and information have-nots.

Published
2021-12-27
How to Cite
Wang, H., Seth, A., Johri, M., Kalra, E., & Singhal, A. (2021). Communication Infrastructure and Community Mobilization. The Journal of Development Communication, 32(2), 73-86. Retrieved from http://jdc.journals.unisel.edu.my/ojs/index.php/jdc/article/view/212