Avaaj Otalo - A Field Study of an Interactive Voice Forum for Small Farmers in Rural India

Neil Patel, Deepti Chittamuru, Anupam Jain, Paresh Dave, Tapan S. Parikh
CHI: ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2010
In this paper we present the results of a field study of Avaaj Otalo (literally, “voice stoop”), an interactive voice application for small-scale farmers in Gujarat, In- dia. Through usage data and interviews, we describe how 51 farmers used the system over a seven month pilot deployment. The most popular feature of Avaaj Otalo was a forum for asking questions and browsing others’ questions and responses on a range of agricul- tural topics. The forum developed into a lively social space with the emergence of norms, persistent modera- tion, and a desire for both structured interaction with institutionally sanctioned authorities and open discus- sion with peers. For all 51 users this was the first ex- perience participating in an online community of any sort. In terms of usability, simple menu-based naviga- tion was readily learned, with users preferring numeric input over speech. We conclude by discussing implica- tions of our findings for designing voice-based social me- dia serving rural communities in India and elsewhere.