Skip to Content

news | October 18, 2016 | India | Development

Bridging the communication gap for better public services in India

An awareness-raising session on government schemes for female community leaders, in Nongpoh, Ribhoi District, as part of the activities of the project “Improving access to information of public schemes in backward districts in India.” (ACTED)

In Northeast India, an area extremely remote and isolated from the central government, specific welfare programmes addressing health, housing, education, and other basic services have been implemented by the government. Yet, local communities are often unaware of the existence of these programmes or how to access them.

Multiple actors for better socioeconomic services

To tackle this issue, ACTED India has been working since 2014 to improve access and quality of public services for these underserved communities, through an ECHO-funded project. The project, “Civil Society Organisations in Development: Improving access to information of public schemes in backward districts in India”, which is funded by the European Commission, aims at improving access to information on public schemes. For this purpose, ACTED’s project involves close cooperation with local officials and civil society actors, who thus receive training and documentation to improve the performance of public services. In addition, with the aim of bridging the communication gap between service providers and the service users, ACTED has set up a system of phone-based alerts for increasing access to information on public services. Local newspapers, radio and TV stations are also encouraged to disseminate relevant information.

Fellowships for local journalists as key actors

Local media can play a key role in informing communities of actions and programmes undertaken in the region. That is why ACTED decided to offer fellowships to 21 local journalists who publish articles in relation to these government social schemes. Thanks to these journalist fellows, local communities in Northeast India are informed of their social rights, governmental initiatives and ACTED’s activities, thereby encouraging demand for effective public services. Further, these journalists also relay users’ grievances or dysfunctions of some public services, which encourages service providers to take corrective measures to ensure better quality of their services.

An article published in 2015 by a journalist fellow of the ACTED-EU project in a local newspaper on a health-related programme.

Involving local media in local development

The impact of this fellowship programme goes beyond informational purposes; it also encourages local media to play a more active role in the socioeconomic development of the region, as they relay government initiatives for the people and are an essential link between the local communities and public institutions. For these 21 journalist fellows, it is also a way to ensure the continuity of local media, as they face a difficult situation in this region of India, with very few journalists present in most districts. Indeed, 213 articles have already been published in local newspapers, and more are yet to come.

Ten government schemes, relating to health, education, water and sanitation, livelihoods, food security, housing and rural development, are specifically targeted under this project. These schemes include women and children-specific schemes, such as the Janani Sishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) scheme that enables pregnant women to safely deliver their babies in government hospitals free of charge, and provides free healthcare for infants below 1 year old. The Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme proposes free health check-ups in Anganwadi centres for pregnant women and nursing mothers, children below 6 and adolescent girls. Another example is the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme, improving nutritional status of children.