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Computer Engineering Seminar

The Talking Book: a $10 Rural Audio Computer to Improve
Health and Literacy in Developing Countries

Cliff SchmidtLiteracy Bridge

Knowledge is power: but most knowledge is tied up in text. How then do one billion illiterate adults in the world access
knowledge crucial to preventing disease? How do farmers in remote areas of developing countries learn the latest techniques
to improve their crops? In response to this problem Literacy Bridge designed the Talking Book – a low cost, digital audio computer
to provide literacy training and vital, locally generated information to people with limited access to either. Imagine an MP3 player
used to play and freely distribute locally produced podcasts in villages without electricity. In this talk, we will describe the problem,
the iterative design process to reach a solution, and the results observed in villages and schools during a recently completed pilot
test in West Africa. We will also discuss how the University of Michigan is helping to make the Talking Book affordable even in the
poorest regions of the world.
Prior to founding Literacy Bridge, Cliff Schmidt worked as a grassroots lobbyist for organizations working to end global poverty; prior
to that he ran an open source software consulting business specializing in intellectual property issues and community development.
He has served on the board of directors of several nonprofit organizations, including The Apache Software Foundation, where he was
appointed Vice President of Legal Affairs. Schmidt has worked as an industry standards representative for Microsoft and a submarine
officer for the US Navy. He received his undergraduate degree in cognitive science from MIT and his MS in computer science and
engineering from the University of Washington.

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