Len Klie

Speech Companies Help Egyptians Left Without the Net

I just finished posting a news story to the SpeechTechMag site detailing the efforts VoiceCloud and Google have undertaken to make sure that Egyptians can stay connected despite their government’s shut down of the Internet as a way to cut off communications between groups of protesters. It seems the government controls the company’s Internet and telephone provider, Egypt Telecom, so turning off the Internet for millions of subscribers was a simple task.

In response to that service blackout, Google and VoiceCloud have launched services that allow Egyptians to place phone calls to  designated numbers and leave voicemail messges that then get posted to Twitter. The Google service, called speak2tweet, automatically turns the voicemail into a sound file and publishes it on speak2tweet’s Twitter feed. It essentially allows people in Egypt to connect to Twitter, hear tweets, and leave tweets without having Internet access.

“Like many people, we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground,” Ujjwal Singh, co-founder of SayNow (which was acquired by Google January 25) and AbdelKarim Mardini, Google’s product manager for the Middle East and north Africa, wrote on Google’s public blog. “Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection. We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time.”

VoiceCloud’s service uses live agents to translate and transcribe the voice messages and then to post the text and audio to a special Twitter feed, located at www.Twitter.com/egyptianvoices. VoiceCloud is also setting up an additional page at http://voicecloud.com/egypt where messages can be read beyond the 140 character Twitter limit.

“We hope this will help the people in Egypt to have their voices seen and heard throughout the world,” Gerald Marolda, VoiceCloud’s CEO, said in a statement.

Even though these two solutions do not use voice technologies directly, it’s nice to see voice vendors stepping up to the proverbial mic and lending a voice to those whose voices are being stifled.