Let’s get the ball rolling

I am working with Yan Cimon and Serge Kablan on a research project about Internet accessibility. By this we do not mean having some sort of connection to a network. We are looking at ways that would improve… cognitive access to what many of us take for granted.

As you may know, Internet usage statistics show that 70-80% of the population has access to the Internet or has used it in some way. This is much less than for TV where penetration is almost universal. And in fact, 70% could be too generous an estimate. Sources such as Pew and the Internet report that roughly half of the population is either a non or an occasional user.

These figures are somewhat similar to what is reported by the literacy studies which conclude that close to half the population does not have the cognitive skills that are required to function properly in our information age.

In the physical world, we do not tell people with limited mobility (ex: in a wheelchair) that they should try harder in order to climb stairs — we build access ramps.

How do we break barriers in a digital world? Our first intuition is that the mobile phone is a key device, because it can blend voice interaction with other forms of representation — if someone can verbalize his/her needs, it should be reasonable to expect that a smart phone can input voice and output a richer, yet easy to use, content such as videos, schematics, "augmented text", texts aimed at third parties etc.

Our first step is to look at what is currently being done, either by hardware/software manufacturer (Yan), or by the civil society (governments, NGO, etc.) (myself). Serge will review the informed consent issue.

If you stumble across this post and want to steer us towards some source or idea, feel free to leave a comment or drop a line (here)