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Monday, April 07, 2008

A Digital Alladin's Lamp for the BoP?

By Francisco Noguera

A new wave of Internet connectivity for the BoP is under way by means of making the Web audible.

Internetspeech has developed a technology that makes the Internet accessible over the phone. That's right, just a phone line and your voice; no keyboards, no screens and no literacy required.
Click here to listen to a demo while you read the rest of the post.

The model is similar in concept to Question Box, and would allow a potentially large segment of the BoP to benefit from the access to information and a global marketplace that the Web offers. This technology and the recent advances in mobile devices and services add up to a promising model.

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.

I came across possibility after reading and posting a Fortune Magazine interview with Muhammad Yunus, who spoke about his dream of a "Digital Alladin's Lamp" for poor women around the world.


Says Professor Yunus:

"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."

InternetSpeech and similar technlogies like Odiogo might bring the dream of such a "lamp" closer to reality. Definitely a trend worth keeping an eye on!

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