It was not all sunshine and fare weather that greeted us on the December 26th this year in Sri Lanka. Instead a country in a crisis dealing with the continuous week long rains washing away sides of hills and flooding (copy of Dec 26th landslide and flood warnings issued by DMC). While we were at the Hambantota exhibition, there was uncertainty in being cut-off from Colombo with flash floods crossing roads in various E/A/B network. Had the rains continued on the 26th we may have been stranded or had great difficulty returning to Colombo. An incident or situational map, like Google’s Alerthub, would have been informative in comforting the uncertainties.
VoiceICT4D project page LIRNEasia, through a stakeholder forum, advocated the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Center (DMC) to move towards a multi-agency situational-awareness platform by creating a register of alerting authorities and then sharing it’s call center and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system resources for emergency communication. The “Do you Hear Me” video, communicating the need for voice-enabled Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), to empower community-based emergency coordination, was visited by 496 viewers, of which 48 or them shared their knowledge on the subject. UNISDR debut film festival on DRR, selected our video as as one of the best three in the category of “best human interest story” Peer-reviewed scientific articles presented the realization study evidence emphasizing the practical technical instabilities and deficits in those technologies. The message was news to most researchers and practitioners. IVR-based solutions are gradually gaining momentum.
Everyone is looking for the killer app that can serve the non-digizen (non digital citizens). There is a lot of hype about smart phones but the practical field level thinkers have realized voice is the better solution. CGNet Swara a citizen journalism project, TCS Innovation Lab’s work on the use of speech for querying railway information1, IITM-RTBI’s Agriculture Information exchange, are a few of many Interactive Voice Response (IVR) enabled solutions that are taking shape in the region. Key reasons for the innovations surrounding IVR are to overcome the problems with key pad entry (pressing W thrice for Y) and traditional English based applications. It doesn’t get easier than pressing a few digits to dial a number and speak your mind or listen to a message.
Our findings from the recently concluded Interactive Voice-enabled alerting and situational reporting pilot revealed that Speech-To-Text and Text-To-Speech were impossible to apply with audio over low quality transmission networks (listen to this audio to get a sense how bad it can be). One could sample at much higher frequencies then that produces an extremely large mega byte file which may take hours to multi-cast; hence, not recommended for critical life-saving communications. Our conclusions drawn were mainly on the situational reporting functions. The U.S.