Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) can aid development where information and connectivity are the missing components. Several developing world problems like lack of natural resources, poverty, corruption etc. could be helped through ICT based solutions. ICT4D techniques can lead to better management of available resources, improved monitoring & reporting of corruption and more connectivity among people. To achieve impact at a massive scale such solutions need to be robust enough to reach the target masses using available means with minimum resource expenditures. However, traditional means of communication prove ineffective in reaching low-literate, non-affluent masses.One viable option is speech over simple phones that are gaining an increasingly high penetration in most developing regions. Past research reveals another challenge that low-literate people have trouble using even simple telephone-based dialog systems and typically need explicit training.
As a result such services are restricted to a moderate number of beneficiaries due to the non-scalability of user training. The goal of my research is to enable dissemination of speech-based, development-related information and communication services to low-literate telephone users throughout the developing world; without the benefit of explicit user training. My work shows that speech-based simple entertainment services can be used as powerful motivators to induce self-training and viral spread among low-literate masses. Such services can further be used as vehicles for delivering core development services and as experimental test-beds for performing randomized controlled trials and demographic studies.
Roni Rosenfeld (Chair)
Umar Saif (ITU, Pakistan)
Bill Thies (MSRI)