Deccan Herald
L Subramani
New Delhi

Amid a host of 'assistive devices' crucial for inclusion of the differently abled that vied for the Social Innovation Honours by Nasscom Foundation, the panel trusted with the task of choosing the winners for 2011 picked technology with a wider impact.

Single Language Subtitling (SLS), the method innovated by the Puducherry-based organisation Planet Read which would encourage weak readers to pick up reading skills, Panini Keyboard, an innovation by the Noida-based Luna Ergonomics that would let mobile phone users effortlessly key in messages in regional languages and Election Watch Software (EWS), an online application developed by the Association for Democratic Reform (ADR)and Webrosoft to provide backgrounds of candidates contesting elections, have been successful in getting this year’s honours awarded during Nasscom’s Leadership Summit in Mumbai last week.

Reading with lyrics

Targeted mainly at “half of India” that cannot read functionally and children who are poor at reading skills, Single Language Subtitling prints the lines of a song below the video for people to listen and read simultaneously.

SLS has now been implemented on eight weekly TV programmes mainly broadcasting regional film music — one each in Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil — giving reading practice to 150 million weak readers for 30 minutes a week.

“SLS on songs causes automatic and inescapable reading practice, allowing weak readers overcome the motivational barrier to reading practice,” says Planet Read. The average cost of SLS is 25 paise per weak reader per year for 30 minutes of weekly reading.

Multi-lingual keyboard

Despite the insistence on data access as a means to help boost revenue for mobile operators, non-English users of mobile phone (who constitute a majority)have no proper input mechanism or means of accessing regional language information on their cosy hand-held devices. Panini Keyboards is said to offer the same levels of ease of use found in English keyboards while typing in text messages or saving contact details to the address book.

Based on a patented invention of statistical predictive texting, Panini provides a single keypress ergonomic typing in all Indian scripts, enabling people of all social backgrounds to learn and use it easily. Inventors say it results in vastly reduced number of key tabs.

Though primarily meant for mobile phone users, the keyboard can also be used in PCs, ATMs, IPTVs, touch screen kiosks and similar devices, Luna Ergonomics said.

“All stake-holders have been informed about the arrival of the Panini Keypad and each one is gradually moving towards its adoption. The first phones enabled with the Panini Keypad are entering the markets. And thousands of users all over India are already using the Panini Keypad to write in Indian languages freely on their phones by downloading the software from our website and telecom operator decks,” according to the company.

Managing workflow

By choosing technology that has plugged the loopholes in one of the biggest rural employment schemes for the Honours, the Nasscom Foundation appeared to have hinted the role of technology in providing good governance and also stop corruption eating away resources that ought to be benefiting the poor.

With the assistance of Tata Consultancy Services, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)regional office in Hyderabad developed a software that would plug the loopholes in the system and ensure workers under the scheme are paid properly.

“The comprehensive ICT (Information Communication Technology)system has been designed and developed in close collaboration with TCS and is being effectively utilised in all the 1098 intermediary panchayats (Mandals),” MNREGA regional office has said in its presentation to NF.

The software enables all processes to be mandated through the ICT system. It automates work effort estimation, reports and enables Electronic Muster and Measurement System (EMMS), besides providing innovative wage dispersing process and wage seeker-friendly services.

Maintaining transparency and accountability, minimising fraud, reducing administrative cost, managing change, effective programme monitoring and promotion of social audit (since the information available on the internet is in English and telugu) are some of the benefits of the ICT system, according to MREGA authorities.

Election watch software

The need to provide streamlined information about the criminal, education and financial background of candidates contesting elections gave rise to the easily-accessible web-based application.

The application now enables voters to learn about the MLAs and MPs representing them through different sources — online, SMS and toll-free phone. They can compare backgrounds of winners against the losers, estimating the increase in asset of a parliamentarian etc, enabling them to make informed choices during elections.

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