According to MIT’s Center for Civic Media (the inventors and current caretakers of the software) VoIP DRUPAL is a, “unified communications framework that brings the power of voice and Internet-telephony to Drupal sites. It can be used to build hybrid applications combining regular touchtone phones, web, SMS, Twitter, IM and other communication tools in a variety of ways.” In other words VoIP Drupal is an open source program that aims to link cellphones and websites in a variety of ways. Designers can build applications using the VoIP Drupal platform that can be accessed in ways that do not require internet access or even literacy.
For example, a blog based website that uses this technology, can be accessed and edited solely through a regular old-school cell phone (one with only a number keypad). The user would call the number linked with the website, the blog in this case. A voice would then read out a menu that will bring the user to different sections of the website. Once a section of the website, once again in this case a blog post, is selected, a voice will read out the contents to the user. The user can then reply by selecting the correct option and recording their own voice message. This message will be translated into text by the VoIP software, and then uploaded online.
Just a few of the many possible applications for this technology:
- Voice- and SMS-based Go Out to Vote campaigns
- 2-1-1, 3-1-1 and other information hotlines
- Phone-based community surveys
- Interactive reminders
- Story recording / playback
- Group voicemail
- Language training
- Audio tours
- Interactive community radio programs
- Geo-based callblasts aimed at specific streets or location
The massive potential VoIP Drupal has for development efforts really excites me. It is an open sourced, sandbox technology, enabling potential website designers the freedom to easily create the kind of website they need (using the right VoIP applications). Summarized in the words of the VoIP Drupal Factsheet, “VoIP Drupal comes with an extensive collection of ready-made modules that provide voicemail, click-to-call, phone recording, audio blogging, dialplan scripting and other high-level functionality, dramatically simplifying application development.” This platform can allow communities without internet to access key websites. It can also allow development workers to organize automated text-campaigns among other potential uses. Overall this seems to be a great technological platform and it will be great to see how and when this really takes off.