Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The talking book of Literacy bridge

4 November 2009.Wageningen, Cliff Schmidt from Literacy Bridge presented the 'talking-book' (aka 'chatterbox'), a device that generated a lot of interest among the participants of the ICT Observatory 2009.

This device is designed to allow people in remote rural areas to get access to knowledge and improve literacy: basically, all that a computer can do, but without having a display. It can speak multiple languages and can play content on different topics, such as agriculture and health. It also allow recording onto it, so that users can create and document their own knowledge. Last but not least, it allow exchange of digital content when connected with another 'chatterbox'. The content is produced locally. This device is not a prototype but has been deployed on the field for one year now and it is currently produced for sale to governments and NGOs.

The Talking Book pilot project began in early 2009 and focused on spreading health and agriculture information in a remote village in Ghana in the Upper West Region of Ghana.

Literacy bridge began by collaborating with local experts in agriculture, health, and education to produce content for Talking Books. Experts included officials from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana Education Service, and Ghana Health Service. In January, we delivered 21 Talking Books to the small village of Ving Ving. The devices were managed by a group of local leaders who were given two hours of training by a local Literacy Bridge volunteer.

Results. Six months later, Literacy bridge conducted 25 in-depth interviews to study the impact, usability, usage patterns, and response to various forms of audio content.
Impact on Learning and Behavior Change. Of the users who were interviewed, 100 percent described learning valuable information from device recordings. Nearly every user had already seen improved results from applying what they had learned.

Examples of agriculture guidance that resulted in an observed behavior change include:
  • Keep animals in a confined space and use droppings as manure to make soil more fertile.
  • Plant in rows instead of mounds for most efficient use of soil and moisture retention.
  • Use a tie ridge pattern to reduce soil erosion from heavy rains.
  • Clean animal pens everyday to prevent disease.

Because this pilot was a feasibility study, Literacy Bridge did not take baseline data or compare against a control group. However, many farmers performed their own experiments to test the new guidance, essentially creating their own control group of crops. They used their old methods in some sections and the new methods in others to observe the difference. The pictures to the right show an example where a farmer planted corn using traditional methods in one section (top) and then planted the same crop at the same time using guidance from the Talking Book in an adjacent section (bottom).