Agha Ali Raza

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Entertainment has recently been shown to be a powerful motivator for mastering new technologies. We therefore set out to use viral entertainment to introduce telephone-based, speech-based services to low-literate people in developing countries. We describe Polly, a simple voice manipulation and forwarding system that went viral in Pakistan last year. Seeded(More)
We explore how telephone-based services might be mass adopted by low-literate users in the developing world. We focus on speech and push-button dialog systems requiring neither literacy nor training. Building on the success of <i>Polly</i>, a simple telephone-based voice manipulation and forwarding system that was first tested in 2011, we report on its(More)
We have been developing techniques for spreading telephone-based services to low-literate people in the developing world, bypassing the need for explicit user training. We achieve this by using entertainment as a viral conduit to spread and popularize development related voice-based services. <i>Polly</i>, our telephone-based voice manipulation and(More)
This paper presents the development of acoustic and language models for robust Urdu speech recognition using the CMU Sphinx Open Source Toolkit for speech recognition. Three models have been developed incrementally, with the addition of speech data of up to two speakers per pass; one model using data from 40 female speakers only, one from 41 male speakers(More)
When a free, catchy application shows up, how quickly will people notify their friends about it? Will the enthusiasm drop exponentially with time, or oscillate? What other patterns emerge? Here we answer these questions using data from the Polly telephone-based application , a large influence network of 72,000 people, with about 173,000 interactions ,(More)
We studied the behavior of users of a simple telephone-based voice modification and forwarding system, which has operated in Pakistan for about a year, attracting 165,000 users who interacted with the system by telephone over 636,000 times and generated very rich interaction data. Trying to cluster the users based on their activity profile, we found that(More)
One of the main challenges in combating the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a lack of effective public health education among affected populations in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Difficulties include resistance to official sources of information, mistrust of government, cultural norms, linguistic barriers, and illiteracy. In this paper(More)
We explore how development-related, voice-based, information services could organically spread among low-literate masses in the developing world. We report lessons learned from a remote deployment of "Polly" in India (from the US) to spread job-related information. Polly is an entertainment driven, voice-based service, available over simple phones that is(More)
This paper explores the use of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems for automatic surveys, data validation and prescreening. We report a deployment aimed at employing voice-based, telephone services to conduct automated, structured interviews of low-literate users and to advertise relevant development-related services to them. Survey calls were placed(More)
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