Microsoft to help illiterates in India
The firm has developed a prototype of a system that will help connect illiterate domestic workers to find jobs.Updated: Mar 02, 2006 15:11 IST
Microsoft Corp's Office software and Windows operating system is typically associated with slick "information workers" on the go, using the latest technology to solve complex business problems.
At a company research and development lab in India, however, workers are grappling with a much different problem: How to use technology to help people who cannot read or write, let alone use a computer.
Working with a local advocacy group, Microsoft has developed a prototype of a system that would help connect illiterate domestic workers in India with families seeking their services.
The goal is to help the women see how technology can make finding work more efficient, as the first step toward creating broader tools to allow illiterate people to benefit from technological advances.
The software was on display for Microsoft employees on Wednesday, as part of Microsoft Research TechFest, an annual gathering of employees from the company's various research and development centres. The researchers, located in China, India, England and the United States, provide the company with a mix of far-flung technology and more practical applications.
Researchers on the Indian project say they have had to overcome their preconceptions about how the technology should work, and why people would want to use it.
Researchers "might go in with an idea of what they need, but once you engage with people you really learn what they need," said P Anandan, managing director of Microsoft Research India.
The system uses pictures, video and voice commands to tell women what jobs are available, how much the jobs pay and where they are.
First Published: Mar 02, 2006 13:42 IST