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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ipadio - connecting telephony to the internet, without accessing internet

One of the technologies I have been simply in love with is ‘ipadio’ at When I met these guys at a technology conference in London last year, I knew immediately that this is it, the simplicity of the technology and its potential to reach to the last mile simply made me an ardent advocate. If you check out the website, you will see that it just connects simple telephony to the internet – means you only need a landline or a mobile phone to connect to the internet, by leaving an audio message. That’s it.

During my forming years of working at Swisscontact Katalyst, I learnt a lot about how ICT is being used by rural farmers and small businesses in Bangladesh. Amidst all the fanfare and festivity about the power of ICT in Bangladesh, the reliance on internet and the need to access a desktop computer in a village or union parishad, provided that electricity is intact – always posed significant challenge till now – in implementing seamless access to information. I wonder in a country like Bangladesh where mobile penetration is way ahead that of internet penetration, something like ipadio would work wonders in allowing those with a simple mobile phone or in possession of a good old landline – to leave audio information in the internet. The file that gets generated is in .mp3 format making it easy for sharing, embedding in any other website, blogs, social media etc. Interestingly it can be the other way round as well – you can call up someone else and record that interview as an audio file, incase you don’t want the other party to incur any calling costs. Ipadio has freephone numbers in more than 60 countries of the world but they are still not in Bangladesh. If it was possible for them to obtain a local number in Bangladesh, I am sure the service could have been extended to the mass technology lovers and development organisations in Bangladesh.

Services such as this can prove to be extremely relevant and useful in crisis situations like in the Middle East and North Africa where the government is quick to shutdown internet and block mobiles. However, since its still possible to communicate via landlines phones, ipadio offers a great way out to pass out crucial information to the rest of the world. Governments will have to shut down international telephone gateways and even satellite communications to snap the full power of ipadio.