Carnegie Mellon attacks the greatest Digital Divide challenges - we need to address easy local problems

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 12/22/2004 - 12:28.

There is an interesting posting in Hindu Business about a development by a Carnegie Mellon professor working with academe and government in India to bridge the digital divide there, which serves all people of the world. Of course, where good happens first benefits first. At a recent Tuesday@REI it was proposed a solution for helping the disconnected in Cleveland is te deploy "dumb terminals" - thin clients designed to provide exclusive top-down solutions to limited problems community leaders consider important - whereas the Carnegie Mellon model is to provide the most functional, capabilitiy rich solutions to the most disconect people of India - the illiterate - to empower them at the highest possible level in the greatest range of ways. This is the correct model, and Case has the opportunity to help demonstrate the value of this approach as we work to bridge the digital divide in East Cleveland. Read on...

Dr Raj Reddy makes
PCs talk the masses language

V. Rishi Kumar




Dr. Raj Reddy


Dec. 20

DR Raj Reddy, Head of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Lab,
Carnegie Mellon University, is on a mission to bridge the digital
divide but with a difference — empowering illiterates to actually use

Having started with the design of a low-cost innovative
entertainment-cum-communication device referred to as PCTV, that builds
on open source software, Dr Reddy is now engaged in building artificial
intelligence into speech recognition software and language process
synthesis. These would enable even a person with language barrier
actually access the benefits of a computer, while reaping the
advantages of entertainment.

So how has Dr Reddy gone about addressing this task? Dr Reddy
and a team of researchers at the International Institute of Information
Technology, Hyderabad, and the Indian Institute of Science, have
jointly developed Indian language processing software that is available
free with downloads.

"We decided to work on Indian language synthesis since this
poses a great challenge to communicators and is a major hurdle in PC
usage. Therefore, we have developed a software that enables people to
use the English keyboard and yet harness the advantage of local

With the Andhra Pradesh Government embarking on a broadband
project, we expect this software coupled with the low cost infotainment
device will address the requirements of rural people. This device can
be procured locally through vendors such as Videocon or from a Korean
manufacturer Trigem. While this is priced at $500 now, in the next two
years could possibly come down to as low as $250. Apart from serving as
a TV, this will have a DVD player and have the capability to record
video while serving as a phone-cum-video conferencing unit. "The
speciality of this device is that, as opposed to asynchronous
communication of mail, we can actually offer synchronous communication
of voice mail and video conferencing," Dr Reddy said.

The effort is on to hold parleys with the likes of Intel and
AMD aimed at driving down costs with low cost chips for hardware inputs
and software major Microsoft for cheaper operating system. We could
also possibly consider Linux to support this PCTV project, he said.

"The IIIT-H wanted to commence its pilot project with
deployment of about 10 units in a village in Andhra Pradesh. Based on
its success, we wanted to replicate in about 100 villages . We expect
to commence work in January 2005," Dr Reddy explained.