Voice-Based Social Media for Developing Regions

Social software – email, blogs, wikis, forums, social networks – has revolutionized how people share expertise and collaborate on the web. However, in rural developing regions, many do not have direct access to Internet-connected PCs or the literacy skills to interact with textual content. How might we design a communications platform for these communities? In our research, we are designing voice-based applications for communities in rural India to access agricultural advice and share expertise, using the mobile phone. The key challenges are contending with limited capability speech recognition for regional languages, designing for illiterate users, and methods for search and filtering of user-generated audio content. We have deployed one pilot system for farmers in Gujarat, India, to record agricultural questions and get responses from experts and other farmers. Based on the enthusiastic response, the application will be launched later this year to serve over 500,000 farmers across the state.

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