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World Wide Telecom Web (also called as Spoken Web or Telecom Web) is an initiative to create an alternate web for the under-privileged. It could help bridge the digital divide by bringing the benefits of the information revolution to the billions of underserved people by providing information and services through a voice driven channel over an ordinary phone call. Information on this web could be community created as well as leveraged from World Wide Web. It is essentially a voice driven eco-system parallel and complementary to that of the existing Web. Though primarily meant for the under-served in population in emerging economies, it has several applications for the developed world as well.
WWTW can be accessible to more number of people in the world as it enables an ordinary phone subscriber to join the digital information revolution. This enables a significantly larger fraction of the human population to benefit from existing and envisioned services than what was made possible by WWW. Specifically, it removes accessibility barriers that manifest themselves in terms of illiteracy, unaffordability and lack of relevant information. Further, it provides the means to create and sustain an ecosystem of local (and global) services, information and communities relevant to these underprivileged users.
WWTW is a network of interconnected VoiceSites (analogous to web sites) that are voice driven applications created by users themselves and hosted in the telecom network. VoiceSites can be interconnected using 'VoiLinks' (analogous to hyperlinks) which are links between two voice applications within the web. VoiLinks can span across different enterprises enabling cross-organizational workflows driven by a voice interface over an ordinary phone.
Key enabler technologies include:
1. VoiGen - VoiceSite Creator
2. VoiHost - VoiceSite Hosting Engine
3. HSTP - Hyperspeech Transfer Protocol
4. WWTW Browser - World Wide Telecom Web Browser
World Wide Telecom Web was conceived by Arun Kumar at IBM India Research Lab during late 2004 and was later joined by fellow researcher Nitendra Rajput in mid-2005. Originally, WWTW was primarily viewed as a novel application of speech technology and VoiceXML standard even though use of VoiceSites for under-privileged was one of the listed benefits. During the course of a year, they refined the vision and built a couple of primitive prototypes of VoiceSite generator application christened VoiGen, with the help of fellow researcher Dipanjan Chakraborty and colleague Sandeep Jindal & Rajiv Goyal. In late 2006, inspired by Prof. C.K. Prahalad and led by Ponani Gopalakrishnan (then the director of IBM India Research Lab), Arun and Nitendra along with Dipanjan and Amit Anil Nanavati got funded for an Exploratory Research project to develop technologies for people towards the Base of the Pyramid. Here, WWTW shot into prominence and got recognized as the most compelling ecosystem for illiterate, low earning population of developing countries such as India. The team reported the work done so far in a Research Report. Soon after Sheetal K. Agarwal joined the team. Together this team designed and built the initial technological building blocks of Telecom Web details of which can be found in publications available at World Wide Telecom Web Publications. This included creation of technology for enabling voice driven workflows spanning across organizational boundaries. Arun proposed the use of out-of-band-signaling mechanism, followed in telecom networks to achieve this. The resulting Hyperspeech Transfer Protocol (HSTP) got designed and created by the team as an HTTP equivalent protocol that enables voice hyperlinks in VoiceSites. The team designed and built the first prototype of this protocol in mid-2007 and reported it in Hypertext Conference in September 2007. The first successful field trial of VoiceSites as a powerful platform for underprivileged population came in the form of Voikiosk system conceived primarily by Nitendra. It is a village portal providing locally relevant content in local language and is available over an ordinary telephone call.
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