Last year we defined a Voice (Audio) Portal for LFY Magazine (now Open Source For You)
This year we’ve worked out how to set up a public facing voice portal, with a callable number and publishing ability to the web for under USD 200.
Yes! This does mean that you can have your own automated outbound dialler for less than the price of a smartphone
What’s a Crowdsourced Information Platform?
Crowdsourced Information Platform is how I refer in my head to the collective of services that have started in recent times to collect news reports, incident reports, personal stories et al in the form of a web post (as in Social Media) or an audio report recorded via an IVR system, a video uploaded via smartphone or even a simple SMS…and all the others that are sure to follow.
Essentially any form of two way communication, with a large user base. Note that one way information dissemination systems (such as TV, print media and IVR systems that dont let you record) don’t fall under my definition of a Crowdsourced Information Platform.
Some examples of Crowdsourced Information Platforms:
RuaiSMS (and other sites based on FrontlineSMS)
All kinds of Ushahidi websites
Facebook, Twitter et al
Google…all of it
Email (yep, and I’ll explain…in painful detail)
Why we need integration between platforms
We all know that most of the Web is user generated…simply because everyone on the Web IS a user. However, as we open more channels of content, the definition of user must undergo some evolution. Different users will have different access mechanisms and therefore potentially radically different views of the same information. In order to be able to provide some order to the chaos, mechanisms will be required to group and link content.
Attempts are already underway to set up repositories of crowdsourced data. However, the variance in media being the way it is, it is unlikely that any single centralized system will be able to cover everything and everyone.
A distributed system is needed where each node is able to communicate using a minimum acceptable standard. Where a medium cannot meet the peer communication standard, a translator can be introduced as an intervention.
By keeping the peer standard constant, the only requirement to add a new medium to the network remains to write a translator from that medium’s existing communication mode to the network standard.
Our (Mojolab’s) recommendation for that standard is EMail.
Email has been around for a looong time. It is one of the earliest applications of networking between computers and has been hammered into shape by, in IT timescales, the weight of millennia.
Our technology roadmap is focussed on developing a set of fungible tools that can be used to crowdsource the collection, curation, publication and visualization of content, primarily in the form of incident reports
Our tasks in crowdsourcing are classifiable into broadly 5 phases
Collection of crowdsourced data can be done via any public medium, such as SMS, Email or Phone
For almost all our projects we currently export all incoming reports to email, to provide a single, familiar content management interface
This phase involves verifying the content, editing it for quality and summarizing it in text
The curation phase is best performed by a large group of people and is therefore crowdsourcable
We again use email for this.
All curators are members of a mailing list. The mailing list acts as the data repository, and each members inbox presents a view of that repository. As long as replies are sent to the mailing list address, the views across curator mailboxes should say consistent
Members of the curator mailing list send back their updates to each message on the same conversation, so each conversation represents the body of work done on that piece of content
This phase involves taking the curated messages and publishing them on different public interfaces, such as blogs and websites
This is our first Summer of Code and we are very excited at the prospect of working with enthusiastic young people.
Our goal for this GSoC is to develop a set of fungible tools that can be used to crowdsource the collection, curation, publication and visualization of content, primarily in the form of incident reports
Please read this link before reading the ideas:
Enable Swara Network like content management over Mojomail
Long before socially inclined technology projects start creating tangible impact for their shareholders, begins the torrent of data generated by technology interventions. This data is typically valuable, since it contains new information about communities who have often never been connected to any digital media. Moreover, the data usually also contains performance related information related to the intervention itself. However, the data is collected in so many different forms and formats that it is usually very difficult to analyze data from all sources comprehensively.
Ever since Mojolab began, we’ve experienced a consistent challenge in being able to manage data that has been coming at us like an avalanche from our many sources in the field.In our case, data is collected both passively by automated systems as well as actively by human particpants. The automatically collected data is stored in several databases, each on a different remotely placed notebook server, connected only by a VPN.
The manual data is collected as a set of excel sheets, often made by participants from the field. These sheets often vary in format, even for similar data. For example, two volunteers in two different locations may collect participant data for workshops in completely dissimilar looking Excel sheets, when compared based on column names, but which represent the same type of data, in that both are lists of people.
To solve this problem we came up with the idea of a tool that would be able to combine tables in different formats to make more comprehensive data sets.
In the simplest case, the tool would be able to take two tables (as CSV files), for example (see figure below)
Prerequisite: A swara installation you can get the documentation at http://mojolab.org/archives/50
Getting the Twinkle:
root@swaravm:/home# apt-get install twinkle
Now open the Twinkle in GUI from Ubantu Dashboard
In the Twinkle’s New Profile Dialog Box:
1. Select Wizard
2. Enter a name for your profile: swaravoicebox
3. Enter server details as follows:
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.
Continue reading “Post-Bellagio Catharsis #2 – Voices Across the Digital Divide a.k.a. “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” (v 2.0)”