There’s an exceptional amount of ingenuity within the development community. Each day, brilliant minds devise elegant solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges that are multiplied with limited resources and complex realities on the ground.
An example of this creativity can be found in the Questionbox, devised by the non-profit organization, Open Box, which brings global intelligence into a small solar powered audio box that works to empower residents with knowledge even if the area lacks reliable access to electricity or if the user is illiterate.
Residents use the device by pushing a green button and asking their question through a solar powered microphone, the question is transmitted to an operator who searches for the information on the internet and then relays it back to the client.
This creates a sustainable connection between the community and the internet without requiring millions of dollars of investment, thousands of miles of cables, and resource intensive computer literacy training.
On a practical level, villagers are able to keep in touch with their kin and friends as operators are able to send emails on their behalf. It has also become a catalyst for allowing residents for improving their social and economic awareness as they are able to be updated on cricket scores, check the exam results of their children, look up prices in neighboring communities, and research useful agricultural tips to increase yields.
The operators are able to work directly from their homes in front of their computer and assist underdeveloped communities as an alternative to working in traditional call centers, creating new opportunities for computer literate professionals.
There are currently two Question Boxes are currently operational in Noida and Puna India as well as another one in Uganda. The number of question boxes will increase once the organization secures more funding and they are seeking donations through their website. From my perspective, the free service will bring almost boundless information to poor and rural areas, in a manner that transcends literacy and other limitations.
Photos Courtesy of Open Mind