This post is about Jahanzeb Sherwani’s speech related research work which I mentioned briefly in a post here. The idea is to provide speech-based telephone information system in local language (pilot test is in Sindhi) for community health workers. The advantage of this system is that you don’t need a smart phone, you don’t need a computer, you just need something that can make a phone call, Jahanzeb says.
This pioneering work is ongoing and this is first in a series of posts on this project. I am very pleased to present this positive effort to a broader audience and intend to keep you posted on its progress.
Community health workers in developing countries are often trained only for a few months before they begin providing health services, and have a great need to access updated and reliable health information. The HealthLine project’s goal is to design an information access system specifically for such health workers, which they can call any time, toll-free, from any cell phone or landline. Through a spoken conversation with the system in their native language, they would be able to learn more and/or fill in any health information gaps that they may have. This would in turn enable them to provide better health services to their community.
HealthLine is a collaborative research project involving Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA), Aga Khan University (Karachi, Pakistan) and the Health & Nutrition Development Society (Karachi, Pakistan).
The project started with interviews in 2007 to help understand the context in which health worker do their job, their literacy and comprehension skills, as well as their baseline health information needs. By May 2008, the researchers completed a series of user studies with health workers in rural Sindh to understand their preferences with respect to speech-based information access as compared to text-based information access. One major finding was that the initial choice of Urdu as the target language was sub-optimal, as community health workers often are not always fluent in Urdu — even though they may have attended school up till 5th grade.
Based on this finding, the team started re-building prototypes in Sindhi, and is conducting user studies with health workers of varying literacy levels to evaluate the prototypes through objective metrics (such as task success rate, task completion time) and subjective metrics (user ratings).
Link to the paper is here.
Previously published at TelecomPk.Net.