Question box

Web intelligence to offline communities


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About the project Edit

Question Box is Open Mind's (California-based non-profit) initiative that helps people find answers to everyday questions like health, agriculture, business, education and entertainment. It provides easy access to information in hard-to-reach areas and breaks through technology, language and literacy barriers. At the heart of the venture is a solar-powered intercom box that features a large green button. By pressing the button, a user is connected to an operator sitting in front of a computer. The caller asks a question and the operator does a web search to find the answer.

Two Question Boxes are currently operational in the Indian state of Maharastra. In March 2009, the Applab Question Box service was launched in Uganda—tweaking the model by enabling callers to contact call centre operators from their own mobile phones. Both services log previously answered questions in local databases, speeding up responses to future enquiries and providing information offline in case of lack of connectivity. Queried topics range from crop prices and cricket scores to exam results.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Question Box brings the web’s intelligence to offline communities.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The free service brings almost limitless information to poor and rural areas, in a format that transcends literacy. Open Mind’s mission is to break down the barriers of poverty by connecting hard-to-reach people with information they need or want to know. They believe that designing from the end-user outward leads to sustainable, successful, and appreciated development initiatives. They believe in flexible, practical solutions that build on simple, accessible methods and technology.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

Question Box is currently live near Pune, India with new projects coming up in Uganda and India. Recent pilot studies were conducted successfully in Bushneyi and Mbale districts of Uganda and Noida, India. We are also helping several organizations start their own Question Box-inspired services.

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