MathuKathe: Illiterate Phone /Any Time Job (ATJ) machine
This post is written by MathuKathe creator, Nandan Rajan.
Imagine trying to find a job without phone, email or internet! You can’t post your profile on job portals, call up companies or email your profile. You are only allowed to talk to friends, relatives and the local recruitment agent that you get to hear by word-of-mouth.
How likely is it that you can actually land a job? Pretty remote, right?
That’s exactly the scenario for millions of illiterate workers trying to find jobs. It’s also the prime reason that despite widespread poverty in India there appears to be an artificial labour shortage. The few labourers connected to the urban middle and upper classes experience huge demand and ever increasing wages while those not fortunate enough to make such connections are left struggling to eke out a living.
Well, that scenario is about to change:
Mathukathe is a free phone and associated services for illiterate poor and is equipped with job finding capabilities. It is designed to be simple enough that a villager with no schooling can operate and cheap enough to be deployed widely.
Remember those illiterate workers: housemaids, carpenters, plumbers, gardeners that you are trying to find?
You can go through the local watchman or fly-by-night employment agency but why not connect directly to the worker?
Instead of recycling the same person who is looking for the Nth higher paying job how about reaching out to the struggling migrant who is desperately trying to survive in a costly city with no income in sight and no local guardian to lean on?
The device eliminates the complexity of phones in having to know numbers and navigate complex menus. Instead there are only two buttons to operate: red and green. The idea is to keep things as simple as other devices such as radio, tape recorder and pumpsets that illiterates are familiar with. Mathukathe does precisely that: it puts you in direct communication with illiterate workers. The device is a hybrid combination of a phone and an ATM machine. Like a typical phone it allows users to make calls – but with a twist- there is no keypad or numbers – and hence no dialing. Similarly, the device is like an ATM – you go to the ATM to get cash but with this device you go to the device to get jobs!
How it works
For an illiterate to operate the device, she needs to get registered – this is a simple operation where she is issued a typical paper identification card and a record of the skills: housemaid, flower seller etc.
She can then use the card to logon to the device – just like you insert the card at an ATM machine. The device will automatically identify her and play out a list of jobs one after another. Each job is an audio clip and so it is pretty similar to someone narrating the job to her in the real world. She can then press the red button to skip the job or press the green button to connect with the employer.
The service will perform background checks about the illiterate worker and also provide assistance to the illiterate to locate the house/shop of the employer.
Adding jobs – For an employer advertising a job is pretty straight forward: call/email the job description into the call center. Then sit back and wait for the applicants to call in.
You can see a demo here:
Let’s say you visit some rural hamlet and connect with the villagers. How about staying in touch when you get back – you can become a long distance mentor continually guiding these folks .
How do we do that? Instead of a job audio clip we put in an audio clip identifying you, say:
“Bindu didi from Washington”
Now when she hears that she can press the green button and hey presto, that illiterate villager can stay in touch with you while your touring the world!
How about checking if they received goodies from the government? Replace that job audio clip with:
“Did you get 5 kg rice allocated by the government?”
The red button indicates ‘NO’ and the green button indicates “YES”. You now can figure if illiterate villagers actually got the resources disbursed to them.
Mathukathe can be used in a wide variety of other ways: providing sales leads to street vendors, conducting opinion polls among illiterates, providing an illiterate helpline, announcements of free training programs, health camps, forming one-to-one mentoring relationships with educated city dwellers, verifying public distribution.
In short, for an illiterate a phone will be as useful as it is for you – the literate city slicker: it will be indispensible!