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Re: report on Leveraging ICT for the Base of the Pyramid

From: Max Froumentin <maxf@webfoundation.org>
Date: Wed, 05 Oct 2011 11:20:56 +0200
Message-ID: <4E8C2178.9060907@webfoundation.org>
To: CE Whitehead <cewcathar@hotmail.com>
CC: boyera@w3.org, public-mw4d@w3.org
Hi all,

Thanks for a very interesting discussion, which I'm catching up on late, 
unfortunately. Couple of comments below.

> 3. Regarding how to best reach rural, international farmers, I don't
> quite agree with you that SMS text broadcasts of crop prices for
> different markets, if encoded with symbols in a graph-like format, would
> be much less accessible to rural farmers than voice information.
> (You say under "Technology,"
> "E.g. a sms-based agriculture service in ‘Direct Access’ is unlikely to
> reach all farmers given the ability of farmers to use SMS")
> * * *
> My Example (a possible way to reach farmers via SMS):
> RICE (currently the only suitable symbol is U+1F35A at
> http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U1F300.pdf which might not be
> supported by the SMS system so a pix of rice might have to be broadcast
> before the SMS data; this is a drawback):

Indeed. I just did a small test texting: "1F332 FISH CAKE WITH SWIRL 
DESIGN [🍥] and 1F35A COOKED RICE [🍚]" (from Skype) to various devices:

- iPhone: displays 1F35A but not 1F332
- Samsung Galaxy Tab (Android): displays neither
- Motorola V220 (from around 2003): neither
- Nokia xpressmusic (from around 2006): neither - doesn't even recognise 
UTF-8 and displays 2 blocks for each character.

So I think we can discard fancy unicode symbols for a while. Probably 
not a problem for currency symbols though, which are (I suspect) 
optional in most cases.

ASCII art is also quite difficult in that the content of SMSs is 
displayed in variable-length fonts, and thus the text wraps in 
unpredictable ways. Ironically, it used to be easier before, when phones 
had monospaced fonts.

So all is left are one-line ASCII pictograms. Eg, Fish <º)))><

I suspect that, to people with low reading skills, "F" is just as good a 
symbol for fish than <º)))><. But I'm not an expert and only a proper 
field study would show that. However if some people who are 
number-literate only and who can reportedly do MPESA banking just by 
knowing which key to press to get to their account balance, I can 
imagine that decoding symbols that aren't pictograms is not impossible, 
and is the only way to use SMS-based services.

Opinions from a specialist in low-literacy most welcome.

Received on Wednesday, 5 October 2011 09:21:05 UTC

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