Social Computing for Social Good in Low-Resource Environments
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Mainstream social computing technologies---like social media platforms, online discussion forums, or crowdsourcing marketplaces---have transformed how people participate in the information ecology and digital economy. They empower mostly urban, affluent, and literate people, and improve their reach to information and instrumental needs. However, these technologies currently exclude billions of people worldwide who are too poor to afford Internet-enabled devices, too remote to access the Internet, or too low-literate to navigate the mostly text-driven Internet. To enable these communities to access and report information, global development researchers and practitioners have used Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology to create voice-based social computing services (or voice forums). These services let users access, report, and share information via ordinary phone calls. However, challenges in managing local language audio content, high cost of voice calls, and technical difficulties in setup makes these services difficult to scale despite their demonstrated impact. This thesis will present three systems that I built to address these scalability, sustainability, and replicability concerns. Sangeet Swara is a social media voice forum that uses community moderation by its low-income, low-literate users to manage and moderate audio content recorded in local languages. Respeak is a voice-based crowdsourcing marketplace that enables voice forum users to complete speech transcription tasks vocally to subsidize their cost of voice calls. IVR Junction is free and open source toolkit that enables global development organizations to easily build, set up, and maintain voice forums. Together, these systems fulfill my vision of building scalable, sustainable, and replicable voice-based social computing services that enable people without literacy, smartphones, or the Internet to participate in informative dialogues at both community and global scales.