Microsoft researchers Aditya Vashista and Bill Thies have co-developed a platform called IVR Junction that leverages IVR technology (Interactive Voice response; voice-based computer-human interaction) to improve communication with cell-phone users in rural environments.
Although cell phones have fast proliferated throughout the developing world – particularly in India and Africa – a lot of users don’t know how to effectively use SMS features. Aditya and Bill aim to take advantage of the common 2G access that rural cellphone users have to build a platform that allows them to leave voice messages that can be accessed anywhere via social media, enabling an ad-hoc two-way communication stream.
“Making it a two-way channel, where you have voices coming in from across the world, that’s what’s new (with IVR Junction),” says Thies, researcher at Microsoft Research India. “For a long time, IVR has been used to deliver information, but that goes back to the early days of the Internet for consuming information. People who were previously just consumers of information are now producers of information. Now they can record (information) and have a global audience.”
The platform literally intends to add a voice to rural communities by building a two-way social network built on small voice messages that can be accessed directly through Facebook and Twitter.
“This technology is creating more social awareness about issues facing marginalized communities and prompts authorities to take some action,” says Vashistha.
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