Since January 2011, the World Wide Web Foundation has led a 12-partner consortium in a project called Voices funded by the European Union under the FP7 program. Designed to leverage the integration of voice and web based services to accelerate social and economic development, Voices has already helped thousands of people in Mali and Senegal, and the tools, knowledge and expertise developed have paved the way for many more to benefit around the globe.
As we approach the end of this phase of the project, we’re reflecting on some key highlights and achievements. These include:
- Developing innovative systems that combine voice and web technology to tackle social challenges in the developing world. By allowing users – often illiterate or speakers of only local dialects – to share and access information via the web, these systems have already been used to enhance market trading in Mali, improve infectious disease outbreak detection in Senegal and allowed community leaders to organise important meetings quickly across the region. A short film explaining these systems is available here and embedded below.
- Creating innovative open-source software which enables the development of applications based on vocal interfaces or SMS. Voices engaged with local and international NGOs and companies who might benefit from the software and trained local entrepreneurs in Senegal, providing both technical and business support.
- Winning recognition for our work in making the Web relevant to local people with a clear focus on citizen journalism. The Foroba Blon platform developed by Voices won an award from the International Press Institute and helped Al Jazeera to a commendation at the Online Media Awards for their reporting of the Kenyan Elections.
Now that the core research phase of Voices has drawn to a close, we’ll continue to work closely with project partners to leverage dissemination and exploitation of the results and tools developed in the last 30 months. We will also work closely with interested parties to help them mainstreaming mobile and Web technologies in their operation. For instance, we have been working with the UN on the MyWorld project, helping to organize a voice-based worldwide survey on the Millenium Development Goals.