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Cell Phone Games Emerge as Entertaining Way to Increase Public Advocacy

As mobile phone usage becomes more commonplace in developing countries, cell phone games are emerging as an entertaining way to increase public advocacy. In India this month, the Danish government launched "Copenhagen Challenge," a detective game designed to educate Indian school children about climate change.

Your mission; free Dr. Kumar from the claws of the fossil fuel mafia and save the environment from total annihilation.

No small task. But one that students at the Montort school in New Delhi are eager to confront.

This month the Danish Government teamed with an Indian Software Company (ZMQ) to launch "Copenhagen Challenge," a detective game available on mobile phones and personal computers about climate change.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Agency of India the country has nearly 350 million mobile users, many of whom are poor villagers using inexpensive, recycled phones.

Denmark's minister for climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, says such cell phone penetration makes the mobile network a natural choice to educate people about climate change.

"In many ways the mobile phone is the best example that history has ever provided us to show that modern technology in a global world can be disseminated at a very expedient rate," Hedegaard said.

The impact of this innovative effort is to be assessed when Denmark hosts the U.N.'s international climate change conference, known as COP15, in Copenhagen this December.

The company that designed the software, ZMQ, specializes in interactive education and has released a series of games on HIV and safe sex, including its most popular: Safety Cricket.

The game teaches young people about preventing HIV transmission while they indulge in India's favorite sporting pastime. Offered in regional languages and in low-resolution form, the game praises high scorers for being faithful to their sexual partners. Protective cricket helmets are equated to condoms.

Several Indian states, including Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, ban sex education in schools.

The World Bank reports that the sexually-transmitted disease HIV, which causes AIDS, is responsible for two percent of all deaths in India.

ZMQ's chief executive, Subhi Guraishi, says Safety Cricket - which has been downloaded 10 million times, primarily by Indian villagers - is an effective way to teach Indians about a subject many consider taboo.

"Nobody points finger at what is being delivered to you. You are actually playing a game," Guraishi said. "So it is not serious study it's good quality entertainment with good learning."

In the coming months, another new educational mobile phone game will be released in rural India - this one focusing on nutrition tips for expectant mothers.