With cellular phones now becoming an integral part of our lives and being a major source of fun and staying connected to the world, they have certainly developed a major hold on the power to influence our approach towards life.
Realising the growing significance and impact on everyone’s life, irrespective of place of residence, a software solution company in Delhi has evolved a unique concept in mobile phone games to spread awareness on HIV/AIDS, its mode of transmission and prevention.
Today, mobile phones are the most sought after communication gadgets and the easiest way to stay in touch with near and dear ones.
ZMQ Software Systems recently released four games as part of a fund raising efforts on HIV/AIDS awareness that can be accessed by subscribers of Reliance Infocom, one of India's largest private cell phone service providers.
The concept was developed by duo brothers, Subhi Quereshi and Hilmi Quereshi specifically targeting the semi literate and rural mass of the country.
"And, why these games? It is because every human being has an urge for games. He wants some entertainment. So we have used the medium of entertainment and games -interactive entertainment for that matter to spread the message of HIV/AIDS", said Subhi Quereshi Chief Executive Officer, ZMQ.
"One reason why we have taken mobile because mobile is the most widely spread device today in the world. You go to a village; you will find people with mobiles. You have semi literate or from any class to any category, any region to any place, you will find people using mobile phones. Mobile phones are self-learning device,” Quereshi added.
The games include cricket featuring the Demons XI and Safety XI where the safety team is set a target while balls appear in form of condoms, faithful partners, information on HIV and the symbolic AIDS red ribbon.
The team, however, needs to watch out for googlies and doosra deliveries that represent unsafe sex, infected blood transfusion, infected syringes and company of bad friends.
"Ribbon Chase" on the other hand requires the player to deliver messages to different cities of the world.
The third game, 'Messenger', has a dove, the recognized symbol of peace and love, flying from village to village, with condoms and red ribbons. The more condoms and ribbons one distributes denote higher score for the player.
Finally, "Quiz with Babu", displays a young lad with a formidable amount of information on HIV/AIDS and users are challenged to test their knowledge against this.
The games have been collectively christened "Freedom HIV/AIDS". Most of the users find the games user-friendly, as one does not have to follow many rules while playing these games.
"I have got a Reliance mobile with me and though I regularly played games in this cellular phone, recently, I discovered in the R-world of Reliance that there is a game on HIV/AIDS which can be down loaded for free. I played and I found it very interesting game and anyone who do not know anything on AIDS will be well aware of the infection and mode of transmission. I suggest that all should play the game," said Sabina, a home maker.
"I heard a lot about HIV/AIDS on TV. The idea was vague. But now after playing this game, I have become aware of the infection, its prevention and transmission. I play this game whenever I am free," added Shiv, a domestic help owning a mobile connection.
According to Hilmi Qureshi, Director of ZMQ, their's a profit making software Solution Company and as they feel it is their corporate responsibility to do something for a social cause, they proposed to set aside 20 percent of their profit for the cause.
The games were launched in December last and since then nearly 2.9 million users have downloaded the games.
Reliance Infocom will hand over an undisclosed amount of the revenues generated by its users who dial up to download the games to projects helping people infected with HIV/AIDS.
The Qureshi say, that the company's efforts were a drop in the ocean and it was the recent reports on the spread of the virus that prompted them to act.
Besides the Samaritans are now working on other projects targeting the uneducated population, adolescents and the corporate sector.
According to UN AIDS report released last month, up to December, 2005, an estimated 5.7 million Indians were infected by the dreaded HIV/AIDS, more than the estimated 5.5 million people in South Africa.
Apart from the presently available versions in Hindi and English, ZMQ is also planning to launch the games in other Indian languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali and Kannada.
In due course, by September 1, they intend to launch these games globally, converting the content and language compatible to regions of Africa, South East Asia, Central Asia and Latin America.