Freedom HIV/AIDS

Freedom HIV/AIDS project launched in 2005 was a classical example of how mobile games on critical health issue like HIV/AIDS was able to create awareness among the rural communities and youth. In 2004-2005, India was engulfed with HIV/AIDS pandemic with 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS – second largest after South Africa (then). Then the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said, ““There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, education is the only vaccine to prevent it”.

ZMQ launched an initiative to combat HIV/AIDS using mobile phone technology. The initiative was christened “Freedom HIV/AIDS”. It was launched on 1st December 2005 with launch of 4 mobile games in local languages to create awareness on HIV/AIDS. The games were deployed on low-cost and low-resource handsets, which supported only black & white colours. Later the games were deployed for medium to up-scale handsets. One of the strategies adopted to create 4 games to catch different mindsets of people, use popular and simple games, clear short messages, easy to manoeuvre and simple instructions. ZMQ tied up with Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS), nodal state committee on HIV/AIDS in Delhi as a Knowledge partner. The role of knowledge partner was to authenticate the HIV/AIDS messages. ZMQ later tied up with a mobile operator – Reliance Infocomm, a leading mobile operator in India. At that time, 65% subscribers of Reliance were based in rural India. At that time, the average cost of a low-resource black & white handset was Rs. 900 (US$ 20). Some of the most popular handsets were Samsung SN-191 and LG-2030. Providing relevant health messages through mobile phone games was still something new for India and the whole of the world.

The games were launched on the leading mobile operator – Reliance Infocomm. On the very first day of the launch the games were available on 27 million Reliance mobile handsets. At that time, 65% subscribers of Reliance were based in rural India. In a span of 3 years, the games were available on other mobile operators and reached almost 42 million mobile phones with a real-time download of 10.3 million game sessions played. Almost 63% of the games were played in Grade B and Grade C cities. Analysis of these download in Grade B and Grade C cities has shown that the prime reason of greater download was due to media-dark areas, where people didn’t have access to other information like newspapers and TV.

The launch of the games was primarily an open ended approach. On the very first day of the launch, the games reached to over 27 million subscribers of the mobile operators. In span 15 months, the games reached to over 42 million subscribers with a real-time download of 10.3 million game sessions. A game session is considered when the person has downloaded the game, played it and submitted the score back on the server. There was a need to see analyze the game impact in a targeted sample region. For this, we used Safety Cricket, as it was a very special game which it attracted lot of people due to the popularity of the game. In this game, a specialized social engine was built with pre-test and post-test models. This engine was used in a district for 4 weeks, where 27,900 users registered through a mass media campaign and over 76,000 game sessions of Safety Cricket were downloaded and played. The game starts with a pre-test form on HIV/AIDS with 5 questions on HIV/AIDS related to basics, transmission and prevention with focus on safer sex practices, peer pressure and sharing of syringes. After attempting the pre-test, the user plays the game. Every event in the game like scoring runs, getting out or leaving a ball had its own category of messaging. Thus based on the arithmetical calculation of number of runs scored, wickets lost, balls played and balls missed reflects types and number of messages delivered. After playing the game for five times, a post-test form was generated with new set of questions. On completion, finally all the data related to pre-test, game sessions (5 session s) and post-test was submitted. This data was analyzed the user data was submitted with pre-test, 5 game sessions with different game values and post-test score.

Out of the 27,900 users registered in the survey only 8,213 users played the games completely – submitting pre-test, playing it 5 times and submitting the pos-test. The average co-efficient of learning increased from 0.35-0.64. The below result is based for the users playing it 5 times and then submitting the post test.