User interfaces for communication bridges across the digital divide

AI and Society 20 (2):232-242 (2006)
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Connecting people across the digital divide is as much a social effort as a technological one. We are developing a community-centred approach to learn how interaction techniques can compensate for poor communication across the digital divide. We have incorporated the lessons learned regarding social intelligence design in an abstraction and in a device called the SoftBridge. The SoftBridge allows communication to flow from endpoints through adapters, getting converted if necessary, and out to destination endpoints. Field trials are underway with two communities in South Africa: disadvantaged Deaf users and an isolated rural community. Initial lessons learned show that we have to design user interfaces that allow users to understand and cope with delay. We also learned that social concerns are often more important than the technical issues in designing such systems



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