Post-Bellagio Catharsis #2 – Voices Across the Digital Divide a.k.a. “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” (v 2.0)

Voice enabled technology is one of the most promising bridging tools available to society. Given that large portions of the worlds population remain isolated from the Internet community and as a result are often marginalized and disenfranchised can now actually use their voice as a means to communicate with the world.

Several teams are now working to build solutions in this area, with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems that are accessible by phone and internet and provide a means to build bridges across the digital divide.

This presentation was delivered at the conference “Turn Up the Volume: Bringing Voice to Mobile Citizen Journalism” organized by the International Center for Journalists at the Rockefeller Foundation’s facility in Bellagio, Italy between Oct 8-12 this year to bring some of the key thinkers of this space together.

In it, we provide a broad overview of how most IVR systems work, with Swara IVR as a case study and also talk about how mobile phones, the internet and other communication media can be linked together to form independent, community owned communication networks.
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Conversations about Swara IVR: Jitendra from Hyderabad India

Jitendra Singh(Hyderabad, India)
Any quick pointers on setting up IVR on an Indian phone line ?

Anoop Saha
You can use our open source software of Swara.
To phone callers, Swara presents a 2 way Interactive Voice Response that the user navigates using the number keys on their phone.

Jitendra Singh
Is there someone who can help us set this up quickly? Simple menu, just need to record the caller-id
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Conversations about Swara IVR: Waheedullah from Afghanistan

Waheedullah Zadran Babrakzai
hello my dear indian friend
i hope yo be fine and ok

Arjun Venkatraman
tell me boss…how are you!

Waheedullah Zadran Babrakzai
i am fine
actually u r my boss and teacher
i have learned many things from you
how r ur works going on there

Arjun Venkatraman
dude…come on…i am barely even able to respond to your messages…work is going well
i was in kabul recently
and may be back for a week in the coming months

Waheedullah Zadran Babrakzai
i hope u enjoyed here
would that i could see u from near

Arjun Venkatraman
yes, it was great…much better weather than the first time i was there…well let us hope for the best
how is yourproject?

Waheedullah Zadran Babrakzai
i am still stuck in ivr section
actually i couldn’t find any IVR software through which i could receive user input(DTMF) to enter it to my SQL Server database
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Post-Bellagio Catharsis #1 – GPS as Morse Code?

Reposted from


A week at the Villa Serebelloni in Bellagio, Italy does lead to excellent ideas. One that I wanted to put out on the internet as soon as possible is to use GPS as a signalling system.

Most smartphones now come equipped with GPS, to support applications like Google Maps and Open Street Map.
It would be interesting to see if GPS can be used as a signalling system, with GPS on=1 and GPS off=0.

This would be particularly useful for disaster situations or for personal emergencies. Since GPS is usually always available irrespective of WiFi or GSM or other provider network, it seems like the most reliable place to look.

Maybe Google Latitude can include an “Emergency Ping” over GPS, where if they receive a particular pattern of bits from the GPS on/off method, they send an email alert to all the persons friends on Latitude. Now THAT is a Google service I would probably be willing to see ads in order to have.

This needs to be technically validated though, so will add detail to this post and if anyone else wants to validate or implement and talk about it…here’s a good place to start!