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Efficient Voice Information Services for Developing Countries
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Efficient Voice Information Services for Developing Countries

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  • 1. Efficient Voice Information Services for Developing Countries • Student: Pernilla Näsfors Uppsala University, Sweden • Supervisors: – Dr. Roger Tucker The Local Language Speech Technology Initiative, England – Dr. Mucemi Gakuru University of Nairobi, Kenya • Reviewer: Anders Berglund Uppsala University, Sweden Uppsala University, 29 May 2007
  • 2. The Local Language Speech Technology Initiative (www.llsti.org) • Information access by voice for people who can’t access computers and the Internet • Especially good for people who are illiterate or visually impaired • Using existing technology/devices – Mobile usage and coverage in rural areas are increasing rapidly and prices will decrease with increased usage
  • 3. Motives to use mobile phone • Easy to use – Easier to manipulate a phone than e.g. a computer and many people are already using mobile phones • Low investment and easy to maintain – Doesn’t require Internet-connectivity and constant power supply as computers do • Provides information on demand – Compared to e.g. Radio, Television, Newspapers
  • 4. Text-to-Speech (TTS) • Input any written text into a computer program and the computer converts the text into spoken output • Dynamic system – no need to record new messages • Focus so far on technological development of TTS in Kiswahili, isiZulu and Hindi and some specific local languages in Nigeria and South Africa
  • 5. Kiswahili TTS • TTS in standard dialect Kiunguja, suitable for Kenya, Tanzania and other East African countries • First language of almost 800,000 people • Second language of 30 million rural people
  • 6. Linguistic Digital Divide • Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) was put into spotlight at WSIS 2003 and 2005. • WSIS in Tunis 2005 recognised a linguistic digital divide and were committed to support development of software in local languages • Affirmed their “commitment to providing equitable access to information and knowledge for all, recognising the role of ICTs for economic growth and development”
  • 7. Purpose of project • Demonstrate the technology by creating real voice service • Wanted real and useful information – contacted the National Agriculture and Livestock Extension Programme (NALEP) • Farming provide livelihood to 75% of the Kenyan population • Difficult to get information today as the Agricultural Extension Officers are few (~5,500 trying to reach 800,000)
  • 8. Why a Banana Information Service? • Complement to extension workers • Educational tool and reference system – can confirm details • Why we started with bananas: – Grown in many areas – Important crop in terms of income and food security perspective
  • 9. Sources of Information • “Fruits and Vegetables Technical Handbook” from The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development • David O. Nyantika, NALEP • Prof. Esther M. Kahangi, JKUAT • Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange, KACE
  • 10. Festival and Festvox • A general multi-lingual speech synthesis system developed at Centre for Speech Technology Research (CSTR) at the University of Edinburgh (http://www.cstr.ed.ac.uk/projects/festival/) • Free software written in C++ with a Scheme- based command interpreter for general control • The Festvox project aims to make the building of new synthetic voices more systemic and better documented, making it possible for anyone to build a new voice.
  • 11. GNU Bayonne • A free telecommunications application server • Supports a wide range of computer telephony interface hardware and voice over IP implementations • Designed to be an application development platform that easily allows developers to script telephony applications and add support for new hardware devices
  • 12. XSL Transformations • XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) is an XML-based language used for the transformation of XML documents • The original document is not changed; rather, a new document is created based on the content of an existing one • The new document may be serialized (output) by the processor in standard XML syntax or in another format, such as HTML or plain text
  • 13. Usability testing • Testing with 10 farmers in Kibirigwi, Kirinyaga • Full compliance with strict ethical guidelines and industry standards relating to undertaking tests with human participants
  • 14. Tests • The tests were compiled by Pernilla Näsfors and Yvonne Spittles, a PhD student at Thames Valley University, England, and conducted by Pernilla Näsfors and Dr. Mucemi Gakuru. • Each participant was given 3 sheets containing the following: – a consent form giving their personal details – a task sheet with questions to answer from using the system and – a user satisfaction questionnaire to give their impressions of the system.
  • 15. Participant Profile - Gender Gender F 30% M 70% 70% of the participants were male 30% of the participants were female
  • 16. Participant Profile - Age Age 18-30 10% 31-40 30% 41+ 60% 60% of the participants were aged 41+ 30% of the participants were aged between 31-40 10% of the participants were aged between 18-30
  • 17. Telephone usage Telephone usage Rarer than weekly 20% Weekly 50% Daily 30% 30% of participants used a telephone daily 50% of participants used a telephone weekly 20% of participants used a telephone more rarely
  • 18. Computer usage Computers usage Often 10% A little 10% Never 80% 80% of participants have never used a computer 10% of participants have only had little use of a computer before 10% of participants used a computer often
  • 19. Test Results - Ease of use Ease of use of Banana Information System Not Sure 10% Yes 90% 90% of participants stated that they found the system easy to use 10% of participants stated that they were not sure whether or not the system was easy to use
  • 20. Ease of selecting options from menu Clarity of Menu Options Not Sure 20% Yes 80% 80% of participants stated that they could easily tell which option to select from the menu 20% of participants stated that they were not sure whether they could easily tell which option to select from the menu
  • 21. Clarity of speech Clarity of Speech Not Sure 30% Yes 70% 70% of participants stated that the speech from the system was very clear to understand 30% of the participants stated that they were not sure whether the speech from the system was very clear to understand
  • 22. Preference for gender of speech Preference for Speech in Same Gender No 30% Yes 70% 70% of participants indicated that they would prefer the speech to be in the same gender as themselves 30% of participants indicated that they would not prefer the speech to be in the same gender as themselves
  • 23. How usability is measured • Usability is not one single element of a system but moreover, is considered to be made up of five main components which are integrated and can be classified as follows: – Learnability – Efficiency – Memorability – Errors – Satisfaction • The tests undertaken on the Banana Information System assessed the usability of all of the above sections apart from memorability and efficiency which could not be measured in a single test.
  • 24. Learnability • The Learnability component of usability refers to how easy it is to use the system. • Even though the participants had a low level of experience in using Information and Communication Technology, 80% of participants stated that they could easily tell which options to select from the menu and 90% of the participants stated that, overall, they found the system easy to use. • 10% of the participants had low levels of literacy skills but the results suggest that this did not affect their ability to learn this system.
  • 25. Satisfaction • The Satisfaction component of usability refers to the pleasantness of use of the system and the likelihood of users being subjectively satisfied after using it. • 100% of participants stated that they would use this system instead of using other resources such as books or the Internet. • This is interesting as 60% of the participants can be categorised as older users aged 41+ who, traditionally, have been found to be more resistant to change in ICT developments.
  • 26. Errors • The Errors component of usability refers to the accuracy of using the system. The system should have a low error rate (percentage of wrong responses) and if errors are made they should be quickly recovered from. • The mean average error rate of 36% was higher than expected and suggests that, as in common practice with most usability tests, some elements of the interface may need modifications to meet the needs of the end users.
  • 27. Difference between languages • All of the participants who listened to the speech in Kiswahili stated that the speech from the system was very clear to understand but of the participants who listened to the speech in English, 43% stated that they were not sure on the clarity of the speech. • A research version of a Kenyan English voice were played to the participants and they all said it sounded even clearer than the Kiswahili voice. Further development of this voice is in progress.
  • 28. Other findings • 100% of participants stated that the system would be useful for banana farmers. They also expressed a wish to extend the system to other crops, and especially – to livestock. • 90% of participants stated that if they had an issue about growing bananas, they would usually seek help from Agricultural Extension Officers; 10% stated that they usually sought help from other farmers. They commented that there are not enough officers available.
  • 29. Reactions from NALEP • The system would fill an information gap and increase the interest for extension services • The system was well received by 30 extension officers • British English accent not clear – need to use Kenyan English TTS • Difficult Kiswahili grammar – need to make translation informal
  • 30. Reactions from KSB • The Kenya Society for the Blind (KSB) acknowledged the need for voice-based services among people who are visually impaired • Their alternative is to have to rely on other people to provide information to them
  • 31. Future system: Other crops + livestock • Easy to extend to other crops and to livestock • Support enterprise selection • Can have separate phone numbers for different crops • Add information about e.g. value addition
  • 32. Future: Local information • Local market information • Suitable crops to grow in a specific area • Contact information to the local agricultural extension officers
  • 33. Future: Up-to-date info • Commodity prices and other market information • Weather • Urgent announcements – Disease outbreaks, e.g. bird flu
  • 34. Future: Personal information • Enter acres of land and get calculations of possible revenue, required investments etc. • Enter time of planting and get instructions suitable for the stage your plants are in • Can use caller-id and pin-code for identification and keep database with all info so it doesn’t have to be re-entered.
  • 35. Future: Integration with SMS • Can be given the option in the telephone system to get key information sent by SMS or e-mail • Can subscribe to e.g. market information • Can get alerts via SMS of e.g. urgent announcements, awaiting e-mails etc.
  • 36. Future: Simple update of info • Can create website where anyone easily could update or enter new information that immediately becomes available in the telephone system • Updates can be done at e.g. district or provincial level by extension workers • Farmers could also add information or post questions to the system
  • 37. Drawback: Cost • Premium rate service: Normal calling rate + ~5 KSh • Can take 2-5 minutes from beginning of the call to finishing listening to a section – Can shorten time by providing information on how to access things quickly • Cost of SMS vs. Speech – Time to read 160 characters is ~15 sec. which translates to half the cost of the SMS
  • 38. Ways of cutting costs • Can provide landline phone at Information Desks, or ”offline” version of the service on a computer • One call per Common Interest Group • Possible to convince mobile operators to make service very cheap at morning hours? • Get government and/or donors to subsidise calling rates?
  • 39. Other services • SMS Further info • Value added Information Service – E.g. Commodities, Weather, Health, E-government, Insurance, Banking • TTS good for providing personal or sensitive information
  • 40. Other languages • Possible for a linguist together with an engineer to within 6-8 months produce a good quality TTS system for a linguistically simple language like Kiswahili • Database at www.llsti.org with language features that add complexity when building TTS • Can create limited-domain TTS before a full TTS can be developed
  • 41. Further testing and research • Further tests on the interface of the system so it is comprehensible by its target users • Some improvements of the Kiswahili is needed, e.g. for enabling simultaneous TTS. • As 70% of the users stated a preference for a speaker of the same gender, future developments could include male and female options in both languages
  • 42. Conclusion of tests - Strengths The findings suggest that despite low levels of experience with Information and Communications Technology: • a system has been developed which meets the satisfaction of the target group; • the system is easy to use and; • the target group would prefer to use this system instead of some other resources that they already have available.
  • 43. Future development • Extend to other crops and to livestock • Possible to get local, personal and up- to-date information, as well as integration with SMS and e-mail • Easy input and updates – enables community involvement • Improvements of voices – Kiswahili and Kenyan English
  • 44. Successful ICT projects • Affordable • Scalable • Self-sustaining • Sensible • Simple ICT components • Involvement of local community and professional people
  • 45. Access to information important • The Kenyan government recognises that the effective use of information and knowledge is becoming the most critical factor for rapid economic growth and wealth creation, and for improving people’s socio-economic standards and quality of life
  • 46. Thank you! Asante sana! Tack så mycket!