October 18, 2009

Twitter: Bringing reading to world’s poorest regions

Beth KanterTwitter just announced its first corporate social responsibility effort on its blog.

See the video above — featuring Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Room to Read founder John Wood and Crushpad founder Michael Brill — to get the lowdown on how this campaign will help 50,000 kids abroad learn to read.

From Twitter’s announcement:

We’re just getting started as a company, but we believe thinking long term about making a positive impact will allow us to grow in the right direction to make a difference as both a technology and a business.

For Twitter to be at its peak in utility, people who would have never had access to the world’s information need to be able to not only receive it but engage with it, too. Room to Read, a San Francisco based non-profit, will help us make that happen by bringing libraries and literacy to the world’s poorest regions.

Together we’ll be making some awesome wine over the course of a year to benefit @roomtoread, and with each case sold they’ll be able to supply about 60 local language children’s books to educate the 300 million kids around the world who can’t read.

You can follow us throughout this initiative and even participate in barrel tastings and other activities along the way thanks to the folks at Crushpad. If you want to get a bottle of our limited Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, visit the Fledgling Initiative and contribute. Good wine has never been better!

Based on my experience with the Sharing Foundation in Cambodia, I know how important it is for children in developing countries to have books to read in their own language.

And, with a donation, you get a bottle of wine, too!

Republished from Beth’s Blog.

September 1, 2009

Voice-based technology aids social change

Projects that use mobile to deliver impactful information

By Prabhas Pokharel

The precursors to mobile phones were walkie-talkies, and the first generation of mobile phone networks only supported voice communications. With second generation networks and a happy accident came SMS, and only with the third generation networks came mobile data services in the form of GPRS.TalkToMeImage

Most applications using mobile phones these days tend to use these newer channels of communication: SMS and data. But even though we sometimes forget, voice is still a part of mobile phone communications. This article profiles interesting ways in which voice technology is being used for social work all around the world.

Voice transmission has a singular advantage over SMS and data transmissions—it channels human, spoken  language directly. Users of many literacy levels can use voice technology with keypad and voice navigation, and applications can be run in local languages. Users can issue commands and requests in their natural language, and thus communicate more accurately. The problem, unfortunately, lies on the receiving end. Voice data is much harder to process automatically than text or other data. It requires considerable technical effort (or a lot of person-power) to parse and separate voice data (and even then accuracy isn’t perfect), and searching voice data still remains a nearly impossible feat. Second, airtime costs tend to run higher than text message costs. Continue reading

March 4, 2009

Chipping away at the SMS literacy barrier

kiwanjaWith all the excitement surrounding Monday’s launch of FrontlineForms, we almost forgot the other improvements we’ve made to the FrontlineSMS software. As well as support for IntelliSMS – another Clickatell-style online aggregator – we finally got round to adding Unicode support which, to the non-technical, means you can now send and receive messages in foreign scripts, i.e. non-Latin or non-Roman character sets. Projects in India and the Middle East have been asking for this, and it’s exciting to see it finally delivered (thanks Alex!).

FrontlineSMS Arabic

Although there are still very real literacy issues for SMS-based social mobile projects, at least allowing messages to be sent and received in the local language – assuming handset support is available – removes at least one more barrier. We’re excited to see how much this ends up being used, and what further opportunities it opens up for FrontlineSMS users around the world.