How Voice Technology Brings People Without Smart Phones into the Global Conversation

Oct 12013

While the Internet has become a global village, people who lack the right technology are often left out of the conversation.

Smartphone adoption is ubiquitous in some parts of the world and rapidly expanding in others, but many people across the globe must still rely on basic phones which lack features that make it easy to share and connect using the Internet.

A system called IVR Junction helps bridge the gap between technology's haves and have-nots. Created by Aditya Vashistha, a former assistant researcher at Microsoft Research India, and his adviser, Microsoft researcher Bill Thies, this free tool simplifies the process of installing an Interactive Voice Response system.

The system connects people using a basic phone with social media, allowing them to join the global conversation, Thies said in an interview.

The inspiration for many of the features of IVR Junction are the product of lessons learned from Thies' work on a previous project, CGNET Swara. Swara is the mobile news service he created with ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow Shubhranshu Choudhary.

They launched the voice service in February 2010 in India. The service allows users to record audio stories on a server using their mobile phones. After the submissions are approved, people can listen to the stories by calling the service. The stories also are published on a website. Previously, rural farmers had no voice in important local debates, "so CGNet Swara made them producers of information,” Thies said.

Read the full post on IJNet.

The International Journalists' Network, IJNet, keeps professional and citizen journalists up to date on the latest media innovations, online journalism resources, training opportunities and expert advice. ICFJ produces IJNet in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. IJNet is supported by donors including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

CC-Licensed photo, courtesy of Matthijs on Flickr.