InternetSpeech – The New Digital Genie?

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Muhammad Yunus beautifully articulated his dream of a “Digital Aladdin’s Lamp”, which would provide poor women around the world with access to global markets and trends for local benefit:

“A genie comes out of it and asks, ‘What can I do for you, ma’am?’ And she says ‘I make these baskets but nobody buys them.’ And the lamp says ‘I will find somebody to buy it.’ And the lamp comes back with buyers. She doesn’t know about a keyboard or a computer. She just asks questions of the genie.”

Sound like a fantasy?  Well, it seems we aren’t so far from realizing Yunus’ dream.  How?

Previously, we wrote about the “Question Box,” which aims to “bring some of the benefits of the information on the Internet to places that are too remote or poor to sustain a live Internet link.”  Now, there is another access point for the BoP – audible internet accessible over the phone (developed by InternetSpeech).  Let me say that again – internet access over the phone, no literacy, keyboards, or screens necessary.

It seems that new trends in mobile phone technology are ushering in a new era of connectivity, access, knowledge, and power for the rural and urban poor.  Can you imagine what the future holds?

Imagine a farmer in a remote village using her voice and her $20 People’s Phone (which only works as a phone and doesn’t even have a screen to send or receive text messages) to check market information via Reuters, and then log onto an eBay-like market to offer her crafts.

A few hours later, she could log listen to the bids received and settle a transaction through e-mail.

Sound too good to be true?  Click here to listen to a demo.

Source:  NextBillion

Experimenting with Internet Access in Rural India

How can rural communities gain access to the internet without the infrastructure required to support an internet connection? Even more importantly, even if rural communities were to have access to the internet, how would the illiterate population avail of these services? What is the use of providing internet access that cannot be used by the community it purports to service? Clearly, either internet services need to be supplemented by literacy classes and computer usage tutorials, or there needs to be another, more innovative solution.
This is precisely what Question Box hopes to do (Through NextBillion):

The Question Box is a project from UC Berkeley’s Rose Shuman to bring some of the benefits of the information on the Internet to places that are too remote or poor to sustain a live Internet link. It works by installing a single-button intercom in the village that is linked to a nearby town where there is a computer with a trained, live operator. Questioners press the intercom, describe their query to the operator, who runs it, reads the search results, and discusses them with the questioner (it’s like those “executive assistant” telephone services, but for people who live in very rural places)

Currently, there are two question boxes in operation in the villages of Ethida and Poolpur, both of which are located outside of Noida, Delhi. To read the entire post on NextBillion, go here.