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IBM to Develop Mobile Apps for Rural, Aging Population


August 4, 2010


IBM is joining hands with eminent academic institutes in India and Japan to find out solutions which would help make mobile phone usage more convenient for people who are illiterate or aged. 

In India IBM has partnered with institutes of repute like IIT, NID and Indian School of Business.

IBM has recently partnered with the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT Bombay) to find out new designs for mobile device interfaces. The collaboration would develop applications for mobile platforms which are simple and easy to use.

“IBM believes that close collaborative innovation with world-class academic institutions such as IIT Bombay, is the key to finally bridging the digital divide and putting the power of information sources and services in everyone’s hands,” said Dr. Manish Gupta, Director, IBM Research – India and Chief Technologist, IBM India/South Asia.

The IT giant already has a partnership with National Institute of Design (NID). Under this partnership, NID research team is visiting various states and conducting surveys to understand the accessibility challenges in those states.

"The NID students by talking to people of various states try to find out what stops the rural populace from using the mobile phone beyond just making phone calls," an IBM India spokesperson said.

The NID team takes feedback from the villagers irrespective of geography or education level which helps them understand the need of the population who are not comfortable in the traditional method of using a mobile phone.

"We want to develop applications which they want and in a way they want to use it," said the spokesperson. 

The applications coming out from the collaboration with the academic institutions would be multimodal which can be used by any one irrespective of education level, socio-economic barriers and linguistic challenges, he added.

He also said that the applications would be available to the public through open source.

“The collaboration between IIT Bombay and IBM is not only mutually beneficial but also intends to address larger socio-economic challenges.” said Prof. Anirudha Joshi, Associate Professor, IIT Bombay.

Similarly, IBM has joined hands with University of Tokyo, Japan to develop applications that can be easily used by the aging population. 

"Japan is a country with a huge number of aging population and for whom using various features of a mobile phone has become a real problem," said the spokesperson.

To make the usage of mobile phones and its features comfortable, IBM and the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST) at the University of Tokyo are jointly developing various applications. 

"The findings can be extrapolated to other countries having similar situations including India," the spokesperson said.

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