Speech technologies: The way ahead for inclusive development

Research institutes like IBM Research Labs, Media Labs Asia, NCST, C-DAC, institutes like the IITs, IIMs among others, have taken up dozens of challenging projects to try filling the gap of ‘Digital Divide’. The private sector is not behind, with companies like NIIT, HCL, Infosys, Wipro and TCS having demonstrated cases for taking computers to the common man.

The rural kiosks is one of the more successful of all the attempts for o people empowerment and development in which many organizations are trying to apply ICT for socio-economic development. A number of kiosk based projects have been implemented by n-Logue, Drishtee, ITC e-Choupal, Media Lab Asia and other such initiatives. These initiative had been a great success, but now the question is, can they be taken to the next level? If so, how can ICT play a role there?

So how can these initiatives move ahead. one technology which has been identified to have huge potential is speech technology. The benefits of speech technology can be realized for the following industries:

The potential benefits that speech recognition, speech synthesis, voice authentication and conversational systems will bring to the Indian population (for people with physical disability, for people with education disability and for speech enable education) has been estimated by our research as close to $100 million.

So how will people benefit from these technologies?

  • The speech technologies have finally been adapted to the Indian need, and companies like IBM, OnMobile, LatticeBridge, Nuance and Haikya (to name the bigger few) has developed support for Indian English, Hindi, Punjabi, Oriya, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali and Rajasthani
  • People with visual impairments can (currently over 10mn of Indian population) can actually use such technologies such as voice authentication and speech recognition and get banking services.
  • Desktop & embedded speech technologies may be used in e-governance initiatives for content delivery and e-commerce. Agro-dependent people can use these technologies to get real time content and can take part in transactions over the internet.
  • Speech synthesis with Indian languages will have a huge application in the Indian education industry. Primary education and secondary education can be provided using these conversational systems much more effectively.

Thus, these technologies can provide huge benefits to the Indian users. Similar usage may be adopted after language support is developed all over the world. What now is needed that initiatives like n-Logue, Drishtee, ITC e-Choupal, Media Lab Asia and others give these technologies a deeper look and try to implement the same so that fast inclusive development can be achieved.

How would you try to implement such technologies?

Please provide your valuable suggestions.

Author: Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science for business management domains. Professionally a professor (IIT, IIM) and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a Regular Contributor of Business Fundas and a blogging addict. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.