Yes, yet another new project we are announcing! I’m happy to announce the launch of a project related to voice-based Web access. This project is named VOICES: VOIce-based Community-cEntric mobile Services for social development and is funded by the European Commission under the FP7 framework, specifically under the International Cooperation Unit. It was very hard work, probably the most difficult grant to secure. It took a fair amount of my time since last March to drive the development, and negotiate the effort. But at the end, this is a substantial project that will (hopefully) make a significant contribution in the domain of voice services for Development.
The project is a cooperation of 12 partners (Web Foundation, W3C/ERCIM, Orange, TNO, VU, CRS4,CSIR, Sahel Eco, Ecole Superieure Multinationale des Telecommunications, Fondation Merieux, Portugal Telecom Innovation, North West University), led by us, that will run over 30 months, for a total budget of almost 3 MEur. The focus of the project is on voice-based services, including both individual personalized approaches (IVR services), and broadcasted content approaches (radio).
We are going to tackle 4 major aspects:
- Platform and Toolbox: Designing and implementing a free and open source platform with essential functionality for building and delivering voice-based services
- Business Models: Identifying relevant and applicable business models for such services
- Language Support: Designing new methodologies to build low-cost high quality text-to-speech and speech recognition engines
- Capacity Building: training entrepreneurs and students on how to create such services and make them self-sustainable
All These elements will be tested and validated on two pilot projects in Agriculture and Health. These pilots will be deployed in Senegal (health) and Mali (agriculture). The capacity building part will be implemented following the same principles as the ones we have defined in the Mobile Entrepreneur in Africa project.
For us, this project is related to the VBAT project presented earlier, which focuses exclusively on human factors, where VOICES focuses more on the technology/implementation side.
Obviously, the program is very ambitious. We are starting the work next week in Dakar, Senegal, with the kick-off meeting hosted by ESMT. A dedicated project page, as well as a specific web site will be made available soon for those who are interested in following the development, and participate in the different activities.