Management Information: Limit and Extent
Gaining New Ability
Export of IT Services
Data Communication in Nepal
The role of IT: Efficiency or Burden?
Sharing Multimedia Endeavor
Published in CORE, Jul/Aug,
Since coming to Nepal one year
ago, it has been interesting to observe the mushrooming of computer
education and training, through schools and training institutes. For
many of us the computer is providing a powerful tool, to increase our
efficiency and skill. For some, the computer is a way of communicating
and integrating their working lives in Society, in a new and exciting
A few weeks ago I was privileged to
be able to see work being carried out amongst disabled people, at Jorpati. The dedicated staff, were providing medical and rehabilitation
services to a group of severely physically disabled adults. The skills
being taught, were practical crafts such as knitting, tailoring and
typing skills. According to a survey conducted in 1980, approximately 3%
of the population of Nepal are disabled (i.e. approximately 600,000).
Only a handful of these people were employed, mainly as musicians,
teachers and unskilled laborers.
Roughly one tenth of disabled people
acquire their injuries through accident or illness, often severely
effecting their ability to work, or even to
I asked whether any training was
given to disabled people on the use of the computer, and was delighted
to be referred to Mrs. Shashi Kala Singh, the
Secretary for the "Technical & Skill Development Center for
Blind and Disabled". At this center I met with deaf and blind
students, from SLC to Undergraduate level teaming computer skills.
The center is equipped with several
PCs, incorporating voice synthesizers, and 'Zoomtext' software to
enlarge characters. These systems, worked well with the common software
application packages, and I was impressed by the ability of the voice
synthesizer (which suffered from a slightly strange accent) to read
words, sentences or whole documents, and
identify menu options to the user. Input and output was assisted by
Braille printers and image scanners. Mrs. Singh's belief is that the
traditional skills provided to disabled people "are not enough for
them to make their life easy and to enjoy equal opportunities in
Society". As I watched the students and teachers working together,
I became aware how the computer has the potential to add so much to the
lives of people with disabilities, and how deaf, blind and able-bodied
people had at their disposal a common means of communication. I saw the
blind and deaf communicating with one another, and I was impressed by
the articles and work they were producing, incorporating use of fonts,
English and Devnagari, and graphics.
I believe that this work is
important, and inspirational for Nepali Society, and want to challenge
Businesses, Schools and Universities, to integrate those with
disabilities into the workplace and education system, through provision
of the right equipment. For many of the larger employers, the additional
cost of equipment would not be too large, particularly as our PCs
increasingly support multi-media, and advanced features.
Technology for the Disabled
Recently, innovations based around
the computer have started to enable people with handicaps to word again.
Ironically, in order to help these people, the computer itself has to
take on the apparent ability to 'see', 'hear' or 'speak'. New products
are constantly being tested and introduced, to encourage use of
information technology by disabled people.
In the sections below, I have
highlighted some of these developments.
Simple Software Aids
Some aids are complex and expensive, while others offer
simple solutions, for example keyboard and screen aids such as :
-beeps when CAPS LOCK, NUM LOCK or SCROLL LOCK are activated.
-makes the screen blink or display a symbol when the computer makes a
sound and user may not hear.
Aids for Different Disabilities
In the box below I highlight some of the application
areas, which are developing and becoming accessible for use with
Helping the Blind and Visually Impaired
Braille has been a successful medium of reading for blind
people, but listening is easier still, and the idea of the
'talking compute' can made a major contribution.
An external speech synthesizer e.g. Screen Reader can read out
the contents of a spreadsheet or database and can be
programmed to understand abbreviations and speak them in full.
It can read out text, menus, commands and windows.
Interactive speech therapy tools, such as Speech Viewer or
Speech Viewer II can be used to help overcome difficulties
with articulation and pronunciation. Examples of speech are
given by the computer, and using a microphone the user can
practice, and watch as visual feedback monitors progress and
Therapy for Brain Damage
Multimedia software, such as Thinkable provides a tool for
therapy sessions, where it can be used to assist n restoring
the ability to think systematically to brain handicapped
people. It tests four fundamental areas of visual thought by
using visual images ad image sequences: attention,
discrimination, memory, and memory-in-sequence.
In the box below I highlighted some of the application areas,
which are developing and becoming accessible for use with
Moving towards a Multi-Media PC Environment for
developments are taking place, which due to their very high cost, are
available only to a very few disabled people. I describe these below,
because they may show the seeds of technological change which have a
Software such as VOICETYPE, enhances voice recognition software,
enabling the computer, and other electrical appliances (
such as lights, fans, etc..), to be controlled by voice
This type of software is principally for those who have
difficulty using the keyboard, but could eventually replace the
keyboard altogether. It might one day translate texts into
other languages as you speak, or record entire trials in courts
Good-bye to the Mouse?
Powerful software is being developed at the University of
Virginia in the US, and enabling the computer o be controlled by
the movements of the user's eyes ( called the Eyegaze-Response
Interface Computer - ERICA). The eye takes on the role of the
mouse, choosing data on screen. The technology is based around a
PC, and TV camera coupled to an Audio Capture and playback
card which determine the exact spot on teh screen where the eye
ERICA can prove particularly helpful to those whose mobility is
restricted to their eyes.
Development of Hardware and
Software of the Disabled
people would like to see their specific needs taken seriously in
standard hardware and software design, and it is encouraging to see
moves being made in this direction.
However Research and Development is
very expensive resulting in a very low level of access to the sort of
technology described, in developing countries and across the world.
The disabled must themselves begin to
made choices about the sort of technology that can be useful to them and
society in Nepal and across the world must look to see how it can
support the needs of the disabled, by providing appropriate research and
development, and opportunities in the workplace.