RatiFi FRC training at the panchayat cluster

Technology, being one of the three segments to develop the forest economy through community-owned enterprises, helps us realise our goal of an inclusive forest economy. The BIPP-ISB team developed a technology stack consisting of a variety of tools, applications, and platforms to enhance and promote the forest economy. The Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights conferred by the Forest Rights Act of 2006 allow community ownership of forest resources, consequently encouraging responsible harvesting and fostering a sustainable economy. To expedite the claim filing process, the team developed RatiFi, an Android application that enables online claim filing. RatiFi is an Android-built mobile application element of the technology stack that enables a transparent filing and tracking mechanism for CFR claims. The application developed for Android digitises the filing of claims for secure tenure of forest resources. RatiFi delivers key prefilled information to assist the quick filing of Community Forest Rights using a scrum technique to track the progress of the filing process and a built-in smart logic engine to assure accountability. 

We emphasise the use of technology in reconstructing the networks between democratic institutions and forest communities, thereby granting these communities greater influence over the environmental repercussions. We released RatiFi in two phases, first as an offline application with enhancements for field testing and then as an online application with performance improvements. The application was tested for simplicity of installation, user experience during registration, and downloading of CFR claim forms prior to its introduction in June 2022. Mobile network accessibility, the availability of smartphones among field workers, the quality of the mobile phones being used by the users, knowledge of smartphone usage, the quality of the internet in the villages, and the size of the RatiFi file were the major obstacles encountered during the trial of the first version. To overcome these obstacles, individuals equipped with high-quality mobile phones and network coverage assisted in the distribution of downloaded application files via the Bluetooth connectivity of mobile phones. After installation, it was difficult for users to download and locate the downloaded data on their mobile devices; the application crashed for some users; the forms were illegible; the maps were inaccessible; and each form had to be downloaded separately, which was laborious for the users. 

Our development team launched an enhanced second version of RatiFi for real-time performance testing. We instructed the field employees on the RatiFi application by educating them through Google Meet on their mobile phones and sharing the screen of their mobile devices. The field workers tested the form download function of the RatiFi application on the mobile phones of community members. Even if the faults discovered during the first round of testing were resolved, the second round of testing uncovered a few new errors. This time, users had the option to select the download location on the mobile device. However, this approach was not without its drawbacks, such as difficulties in locating the document folder on mobile devices, inaccuracies in typography and maps, and privacy and security concerns around access to the forms. Following field testing, the RatiFi application’s problems were rectified by the technical team. In September, our team of two travelled to Simdega to test the RatiFi-developed CFR map data.  

During the months of November and December in 2022, we scheduled a few training sessions at several blocks of Simdega. We formed panchayat clusters based on geographic accessibility and convenience of training to save time and facilitate easy transportation for the participants. 

At Konmerla Panchayat Bhawan in Jaldega, the IoFE team from BIPP-ISB began training members of newly formed FRCs, together with the president and secretary, on the RatiFi application and CFR claim filing processes. The trainers gave a stepwise demonstration of the process by displaying screenshots of the RatiFi User Interface pages through a projector once the participants had installed the RatiFi application on their mobile devices. 

Our team then conducted the second training session for the Partnering Hope into Action Foundation (PHIA) field coordinators and newly hired BIPP-ISB interns on the RatiFi mobile application and the CFR claim filing process at the bank block. Our field coordinators and PHIA team members were set to train the other FRCs of the panchayat clusters who could not attend the training. The session ran without hiccups, and the trainees were able to learn well with the aid of a simple user interface. 

A third training session was conducted for the 12 newly formed FRCs of three panchayats in the Bano block in December 2022. We assisted the trainees with accessing the RatiFi application and smart phone functionalities. Members who required assistance with functions such as “Next” and “Download” rapidly mastered the online RatiFi application capabilities and CFR claim filing process during the training. 

Simdega pilot blocks are now prepared to deploy the RatiFi application for the Community Forest Rights claim filing procedure and to access the forest boundary maps generated by the IoFE team owing to these successful trainings. 

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