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Funny phone game helping illiterates in Pak get job opportunities

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Washington | April 19, 2013 12:01:13 AM IST
 
Pioneering the use of entertainment to reach illiterate and poorly-educated people, a funny telephone game has become viral in Pakistan as automated voice services enable the Pakistan people to learn about jobs and telephone-based services, a recent study has revealed.

The game named as Polly gives humorous sound effects to the caller's voice and has spread fast because of its entertainment value. The callers can send these funny messages recorded on the telephone to their friends, who can in turn forward it or reply to it.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Pakistan's Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) have undertaken the research project, Polly. A professor in Carnegie Mellon's Language Technologies Institute Roni Rosenfeld has said that the project has the scope and potential to help non-affluent, poorly educated people find jobs, find or sell merchandise, become politically active, create speech-based mailing lists and even support citizen journalism.

However, a Ph.D. student in language technology and a native of Pakistan Agha Ali Raza believes that the telephone services can only be used if people know they have to follow instructions over the phone and not start talking. Access to a phone does not inform the people about the technology behind an automated telephone-based service.

Launched in Lahore, Pakistan in May 2012, Polly spread through the distribution of a phone number among five poor, low-skilled workers and has now spread to 85,000 people who have used it almost half a million times.

The project also includes job listings and spreads the word about advertisements on jobs for the low-skilled, low-literate workers by recording them in the local language and making them available for audio browsing during the interaction with Polly.

Rosenfeld believes that since Polly's entertainment value does not have the novelty anymore, people have stopped calling for fun but many users have taken to the job information provided in the telephone service, solving the initial purpose of the research.

The telephone system is now being considered for serving a larger population for a longer time in low costs, helping the system spread to other countries as well, with a success rate of 2.5 million calls in Pakistan alone. (ANI)

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