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Towards Developing a Mobile Application for Illiterate People to Reduce Digital Divide

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Illiteracy is one of the main complications in developing countries like Bangladesh. The adoption and uses of the ICT based applications by the illiterate people of a developing country (like Bangladesh) is very essential to reduce the digital inequality and the digital divide for the social and economic development. The objective of this article is to develop a usable and adaptable mobile application focusing job search for illiterate people in Bangladesh. To achieve this objective, firstly, a conceptual framework was proposed based on the findings of the literature survey and a need finding study, while the need findings study was replicated with 40 illiterate people. Secondly, an android based mobile application with user-intuitive user interface was developed. To make the interface intuitive for illiterate people, it encompasses voice, icon, pictography, minimal number of text in native language, and the like. Finally, the application was evaluated with 40 illiterate people in a laboratory environment. The evaluation study showed that intuitive user interfaces is important to develop a usable mobile application for illiterate people that in turn help them to adopt and use the ICT based applications to reduce the digital divide in Bangladesh.
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2019 International Conference on Computer Communication and Informatics (ICCCI -2019), Jan. 23 – 25, 2019, Coimbatore, INDIA
Towards Developing a Mobile Application for
Illiterate People to Reduce Digital Divide
Md. Arman Ahmed
1
, Muhammad Nazrul Islam
2
, Fatima Jannat
3
, Zinia Sultana
4
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Military Institute of Science and Technology, MIST
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Email: {
1
hemel016,
2
nazrulturku,
3
fj.jannat20,
4
sultana.hiramony}@gmail.com
Abstract—Illiteracy is one of the main complications in
developing countries like Bangladesh. The adoption and uses of
the ICT based applications by the illiterate people of a developing
country (like Bangladesh) is very essential to reduce the digital
inequality and the digital divide for the social and economic
development. The objective of this article is to develop a usable
and adaptable mobile application focusing job search for
illiterate people in Bangladesh. To achieve this objective, firstly, a
conceptual framework was proposed based on the findings of the
literature survey and a need finding study, while the need
findings study was replicated with 40 illiterate people. Secondly,
an android based mobile application with user-intuitive user
interface was developed. To make the interface intuitive for
illiterate people, it encompasses voice, icon, pictography, minimal
number of text in native language, and the like. Finally, the
application was evaluated with 40 illiterate people in a laboratory
environment. The evaluation study showed that intuitive user
interfaces is important to develop a usable mobile application for
illiterate people that in turn help them to adopt and use the ICT
based applications to reduce the digital divide in Bangladesh.
Keywords- Human Computer Interaction; usability; digital
divide; pictography; icon; mobile user interface.
I.
I
NTRODUCTION
Information and Communication Technology is a branch
of technology which plays a vital role of the integration of
telephones, wireless devices and other related software to make
life easier for the people [1]. Smart phone is playing as a bridge
to bring the information to everyone so that people are
benefited by it. Now-a-days people are gathering necessary
informations using mobile based applications which is very
helpful for them.
Mobile phone has brought a revolutionary change for better
communication with society and world. The statistics of usage
of mobile phone shows that about 45% and 43% people of 40
countries in the world are using non-smart and smart phone
respectively [2]. Among the 43% smart phone users, there is a
significant percentage of contribution from developing
countries. So the people who are using smart phone, also using
different applications other than just making phone call and
text messaging. In the context of Bangladesh, the usage of
mobile is also remarkable. According to the statistics of July,
2018 of BTRC, in Bangladesh about 152.527 million people
out of 163 million (2016, World Bank) are subscribing for
different mobile operator [3]. Among these about 88.687
million subscribers are using internet [4]. Our concern also
covers the illiterate and rural people of Bangladesh where adult
literacy rate is about 72.76% [5] and about 64% people are
living in rural area [6]. If rural & illiterate people don’t use the
mobile app then they will miss the benefits of ICT and that will
lead to creation of digital divide. Digital divide means some
people will get the privilege to use the latest technologies like
mobile phone, computers, and internet and so on, but some
people are being deprived of the opportunities [7]. If the
problem of digital divide remains in any society, then the
society will not be able to develop equally. Significant
percentage of people and area will remain far behind from the
technology and its benefits. So by providing usable apps which
is adoptable by all the people, a proper bridging to the
development in every aspect is highly recommended.
In developing countries like Bangladesh, ICT based
applications are being used for the betterment of life. The
applications are helping people widely to fulfill many basic
needs. However, most of the applications that used in
Bangladesh are text-based and mainly in English language,
where a significant percentage of population are illiterate. It is
obvious that to use any applications, people need to have a
minimum knowledge of reading, writing and understanding the
terminologies that are being used in the applications. So, a
huge number of people who can’t read properly may remain
out of the domain of ICT. Therefore, the objective of this
research work is to develop a mobile application for illiterate
people for searching job and to reduce the digital divide in
Bangladesh. To attain this research objective, an android based
mobile application was developed to search and apply for jobs,
where the means of interaction was designed by pictography,
text, icon, and voice for the illiterate people of Bangladesh.
The remaining sections of this paper are organization as
follows. A brief overview of related works is presented in
section II. The participants profile, study procedure, and
finding of the need finding study are discussed in section III.
In section IV, design and development of the job search
application is presented. The evaluation of this application is
discussed in section V followed by the conclusions and
directions for future work in section VI.
II. R
ELATED
W
ORK
This section provides a brief summary of the related work
that focuses on system design and development for illiterate
people.
978-1-5386-8260-9/19/$31.00 ©2019 IEEE
2019 International Conference on Computer Communication and Informatics (ICCCI -2019), Jan. 23 – 25, 2019, Coimbatore, INDIA
Medhi et al. [8] presented two text-free user interfaces to
provide employment information with location map for
illiterate and semi-literate domestic slum labors in Bangalore
(in India). An ethnographic approach was followed to design
the user interface (UI) to make the system intuitive to the
focused users. This work also compared between the text- free
and text-based UI and found that the text-free designs were
strongly preferred over standard text-based interfaces by the
test-participants. To design the text-free UI they had consider
the features of graphical icons, voice feedback, semi-
abstracted features instead of purely iconic graphics, minimal
use of text, and ‘help’ in each page. In another study, Medhi et
al. [9] explore the optimal audio-visual representation for
illiterate and semi-literate users of computers. The authors used
ten different representations like text, static drawings, static
photographs, hand-drawn animations and video, each with and
without voice annotation; and investigated how
comprehensible these representation types were for illiterate
and semi- literate users of computers.
Khan et al. [10] discussed about a job search website for
illiterate population of KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) province
of Pakistan. This paper proposed ICT solution to help illiterate
people of Mar-dan, KPK, Pakistan in searching an appropriate
job. They used ethnographic method to develop the system so
that users can perform specific task effectively and efficiently.
The cultural issue was the main limitation of this article. The
system was developed only for a specific region of Pakistan
that’s why the proposed approach can be problematic for other
regions. Fixed languages, lack of computer knowledge, lack of
internet were the main challenges of this research.
In another study [11], the authors highlighted the web
accessibility issues for users who have very poor language
skills (functionally illiterate people). They presented the design
and a prototypical implementation of a browser, named IGAR
which provides interactive reading aids to such persons. They
also provided graphical structure that helped them to figure out
what things they need to do at the time of operating the
webpage. One of the limitations of this system was that the
user can only read the information; and can’t write and do any
actions in the site. Similarly, Huenerfauth [12] provides a set of
UI guidelines to develop websites and applications for illiterate
user. The study found user interfaces that accept input by
microphone and touch screen, use speech and dialogue
interaction, as well as display non-linguistic graphics would be
compatible for the illiterate user.
A limited number of studies have been carried out in
context of Bangladesh focusing to the illiterate people. For
example, Akther [13] explore how the illiterate and semi-
illiterate people access information through ICT and develop
an ICT-based informal learning environment for semi-illiterate
people following a multi-methodological approach that
combines action research and the ethnographic research.
Ahmed et al. [14] conduct an informal and unstructured
interview with 15 illiterate people to explore how they use the
memory of mobile phones. In another study, Ahmed et al. [15]
find out the literacy based barriers that low-literate rickshaw
pullers (of Bangladesh) encounter to use the mobile phones
through an ethnographic study; later in [16] Ahmed et al.
design and develop a mobile application named Shurid for the
Rickshaw puller (low-literate user) of Bangladesh through a
collaborative model of use.
In sum, though a number of studies have been carried out
focusing to illiterate people and interface design, but only a few
studies has been conducted in context of Bangladesh.
Moreover, the earlier research highlighted mainly the key
challenges and limitations of using ICT tools by illiterate
people, and the issues related to design the understandable user
interfaces for illiterate people. However, based on the above
discussion and to the best of our knowledge, we found that no
study was conducted yet to explore design consideration for
developing any mobile application in context of Bangladesh,
and how a usable (user-friendly) user interface may help the
illiterate people to adopt the mobile applications. Again, ICTs
also play as a powerful tool for the illiterate people. Therefore
by developing applications for these focused people, we can
easily breach the digital divide especially in developing
countries. Considering the noticeable number of illiterate
population of Bangladesh, this research work focused on the
mobile application design and development for the illiterate
people of Bangladesh.
III. N
EED
F
INDINGS
The objective of need finding study was to understand the
requirements and importance of developing a job searching
application for illiterate people in Bangladesh. The participants
profile, study procedure and outcomes are discussed here.
A. Participants Profile
In our study the participants were chosen using Snowfall
Sampling [8] method. A total of 40 (30 male and 10 female)
participants were recruited. The participants’ profession
includes rickshaw puller, security guard, bike mechanics,
barber, CNG driver, electrician, and washer man. The
participants’ average age was approximately 36 years and
ranged between 18 to 55 years. None of them were capable to
read or write in English but 7 of them could read texts in
Bengali (their mother tongue). Furthermore, a total of 13
participants had experiences only with feature phone uses
mainly to voice call and text messaging; 20 participants had
experiences with smart phone uses mainly to enjoying music,
movie, video songs, capturing photos, and phone call; and
other 7 had no experiences either with smart or feature phones.
B. Study Procedure
The study was conducted following a semi-structured
interviewing approach through field study. The interviews were
conducted in Bengali. First, they were asked about their
demographics such as age, experiences with computer and
mobile usage, education, etc. After that we probe them to
understand how they seek for jobs; what kinds of difficulties
they face in their job search; whether they ever tried to get a
job through online; if yes, what kinds of difficulties they faced.
Furthermore, we also probe them why do they prefer to search
or get a job through online, and what kind of interface features
would make their interaction easy. During the interviews, a
careful approach was followed to make sure that the
participants were encouraged to talk as freely as possible about
2019 International Conference on Computer Communication and Informatics (ICCCI -2019), Jan. 23 – 25, 2019, Coimbatore, INDIA
the issues that were probed. Additional questions were asked to
clarify the themes that emerged from the interviews. At the end
of the interview, the participants were asked if they want to add
any additional issues that we did not cover in the interview.
Altogether, these approaches helped us gather a very rich
interview dataset. All the interviews were audio recorded, and
subsequently transcribed. Field notes were also taken at the
time of interviews. The duration of interviews was between 15
to 20 minutes.
C. Study Outcomes
The recorded interviewed data was transcribed and
synthesized. Study data showed that most of the (86.67%)
participants got their job by third parties and they had never
tried to get a job using any mobile application. Again, none
of the participant was habituated to use smart phone for finding
ways of making livelihood other than only hearing songs,
enjoying movies or video clips, and phone communication.
About two- third participants raised that they experienced
much difficulties to find a job, they generally asked people
around them. It takes a lot of time and most of them remain
unemployed for a certain time. Sometimes they also become
victim of being cheated as they cannot directly contact with the
job provider or boss. A total of 38 out of 40 (93.33%)
participants were highly interested in searching and applying
job using a mobile application that would very easy and
intuitive to them. About 40% participants stated that the user
interfaces can be designed using Bengali language
(participants’ mother language); other 45% participants put
their opinion to use intuitive icon, symbols and pictures to
design the application; many of them (86.67%) suggested to
include voice support (in the user interfaces) to access and
apply for the job.
IV. D
ESIGN
&
D
EVELOPMENT
The conceptual framework followed by the development of
the mobile application based on the framework are discussed in
the following sub-sections.
A. Conceptual Framework
A conceptual framework is proposed to develop a mobile
application for illiterate people to find jobs, jobs location and
apply for a job. Since the aim of this research is to develop an
effective and efficient mobile application for illiterate people,
thus, the application should include features like interface in
mother tongue (Bengali language), voice instruction, usage of
pictography, uses of intuitive icons, symbols, and touch based
interaction. The proposed conceptual framework is shown in
figure 1.
According to the proposed conceptual framework as
showed in figure 1, main stakeholder of this application are the
job providers and the job seekers. The application will include
voice instruction in Bengali language (mother tongue) to guide
them how to use the application as well as to apply for a
specific job. The language of user interfaces will be Bengali
(mother tongue). Job provider will circular for a job with both
oral information and text-based information of a relevant job
field. Each job field will have a real life pictorial view
(pictography) so that job seekers can easily find the job. Job
seekers can explore different jobs and apply for a specific job.
To apply for a specific job, if a job seeker cannot write, he/she
can provide information orally. All the applicants list for a
particular job will be visible to the job provider; and job
provider may directly contact with any of them from the
applicants’ list. This is how the proposed application will work.
Figure 1. Conceptual Framework with Data flow.
B. Application Development
An android based mobile application was developed using
Android studio IDE to materialize the proposed conceptual
framework. Java programming language was used to
implement the backend, and for frontend, XML was used.
Firebase has been used for storing the data such as information
of any job of users. Firebase is a Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS)
and provides the features of real time database, file storage,
authentication and so on.
Figure 2 shows few of the snippets of our implemented
model application. The whole application is designed with
Voice and pictorial indication for the illiterate and semi-
illiterate people. The voice-guide in every interface of the
application will help all users to understand what to do in the
present state. A “Job Provider” needs to sign up to create a new
account in this application. Then he needs to sign into his own
account to post a new job. While posting a new job a “Job
Provider” must give a voice recorded description of the
particular job (Figure 2-a). To maintain ease-of-use, a recorder
is integrated within the application for voice recording purpose.
On the other hand, a “Job Seeker” can always access to jobs
available in particular job field (Figure 2-b). One can apply
(Figure 2-c) for a job by providing recorded (compulsory) and
written (optional) information. The application then goes under
the particular job providers’ (Figure 2-d) applicant list. The
application has been developed with a user friendly graphical
user interface for the illiterate persons.
V. E
VALUATING THE
A
PPLICATION
A. Participants Profile and Study Procedure
A light-weighted experiment was conducted at the software
engineering laboratory of authors institute to evaluate the
developed mobile application. A total of six participants were
requited. Their average age was 26.75 ± 9 (mean ± std-
2019 International Conference on Computer Communication and Informatics (ICCCI -2019), Jan. 23 – 25, 2019, Coimbatore, INDIA
deviation). Their profession was car mechanics (3), barber (1)
and security guard (2). They all had experience with feature
phone but mainly for phone call. None of them had experience
with smart phone.
At the beginning of each test-session, participants were
firstly briefed about the purpose of the study and then provided
them a short training followed by a demonstration on how to
use the job search application. After that, they were asked to
perform three tasks (Task1: Find out all the available jobs;
Task2: Find the available jobs related to CNG driver; Task3:
Apply for a job of security guard). At the end, participants were
asked to complete a set of post-test questionnaires with rating
in the scale of 1 to 5, whereas 1 represents the least significant
and 5 represents the most significant.
Figure 2. Few snippets of the implemented application
B. Study Results
Data collected related to the Clicking Behavior, Number of
Attempts, Task Completion Time (in seconds), No. of
participants listened voice instruction, No. of
participants Asking help and satisfactory feedback are
synthesized, analyzed and presented in table 1. The results
showed that participants took in average 19.83, 30.67, and
98.67 seconds to complete the Task1, Task2 and Task3,
respectively; with minimum 19 and maximum 22 seconds in
case of Task1, minimum 28 and maximum 35 seconds in case
of Task2, and minimum 65 and maximum 118 seconds in case
of Task3 (see Table I). The results showed that participants
clicked in average 2.5, 5, and 11.5 times to complete the Task1,
Task2 and Task3, respectively; with minimum 2 and
maximum 5 clicks in case of Task1, minimum 4 and maximum
8 in case of Task2, and minimum 8 and maximum 17 in case of
Task3 (see Table I).
TABLE I. R
ESULTS OF
E
VALUATION
S
TUDY
Usability
Metrics Data Type Tasks Mean and SD Min Max
Effectiveness
Clicking
Behavior
Task1
2
.
50
±
1
.
12
2 5
Task2
5.00
±
1
.
41
4 8
Task3
11
.
50
±
2.87
8
17
Number of Attempts
Task1
1.00
±
0
1 1
Task2
1
.
67
±
0
.
74
1 3
Task3
4.00
±
0.42
3 5
Efficiency
Task Completion
Time (in seconds)
Task1
19
.
83
±
1.07
19 22
Task2
30
.
67
±
2.29
28 35
Task3
98.67
±
19.48
65 118
No. of participants
listened voice
instruction
Task1
1
.
05
±
0
.
22
- 2
Task2
1
.
20
±
0
.
41
- 8
Task3
1
.
33
±
0
.
47
-
13
No. of participants
Asking help
Task1
0
.
00
±
0
.
00
- -
Task2
0
.
17
±
0
.
37
- 1
Task3
0
.
50
±
0
.
50
- 1
Satisfaction
Overall Satisfaction 1,2,&3
4
.
17
±
0
.
37
4 5
Easy to Use 1,2,&3
4
.
17
±
0
.
37
4 5
Easy to Learn 1,2,&3
4.00
±
0
.
57
3 5
Future Use 1,2,&3
4
.
50
±
0
.
50
4 5
Recommen
d
Others 1,2,&3
4.00
±
0
.
57
3
5
Again, the results showed that all of the participants
completed the Task1 at the first attempt and about half of the
total participants completed the Task2 at first attempt, while
more than half of the total participants completed the Task3 in
a maximum of three attempts. On average, the participants took
0.00, 0.67, and 3.00 more attempts than the optimal number of
attempt (i.e. 1 for each task) to complete the Task1, Task2 and
Task3, respectively (see Table I), which in turn indicate that
participants completed their tasks effectively using the
application.
The participants listened voice instructions 0.05, 0.20, and
0.33 more times than the optimal value (i.e. 1) to complete the
Task1, Task2 and Task3, respectively (see Table I). Similarly,
the study results showed that only one and three participants
asked help to the moderator of this study to perform the Task2
and Task3, respectively, while none of the participant asked
help for Task1(see Table I).
In this study, five questions were used to measure the user
experience with this application. The results of UX
questionnaires are showed in Table I. The results showed that
the average score to each UX measure was comparatively high.
All participants found the system was easy to learn (4.00 ±
0.57) and use (4.17 ± 0.37). They all were satisfied with the
application (4.17 ± 0.37) and willing to use the system in future
(4.50 ± 0.50) and recommend the system to others (4.00 ±
0.57).
2019 International Conference on Computer Communication and Informatics (ICCCI -2019), Jan. 23 – 25, 2019, Coimbatore, INDIA
VI. C
ONCLUSION
In this paper, a mobile application was designed and
developed for job search for the illiterate people of Bangladesh.
Two empirical user studies were conducted: one for under-
stating the need of illiterate people regarding job search and
their intention to use a mobile application, and another study
was conducted for evaluating the usability performance of the
developed application. The evaluation study showed that
participants completed their tasks effectively and efficiently
using the applications, as well as they were satisfied and highly
interested to recommend and use such application in future.
These results thus indicate that a usable and useful application
will lead illiterate participants to use and adopt the IT
applications, which in turn will contribute to reduce the digital
divide in Bangladesh. The research has a few limitations as
well. A smaller number of participants were recruited to
conduct the evaluation study. Again, the evaluation study was
conducted only at a laboratory environment. Future work may
focus to overcome these limitations by recruiting a large
number of participants from different professional groups. In
future, another text-based application can be developed for the
same purpose and conducted a comparative experiment to
assess which one perform better between then text-based
application and application developed with intuitive interfaces
(that includes intuitive icons, symbols, pictography, and voice).
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... 1. Effectiveness-Effectiveness is the accuracy and completeness to achieve goals [47]. Indicator of effectiveness may include the successful completion of tasks with minimum possible attempts [21,48]. In this study, two variables were considered to measure the game's effectiveness: (a) success rate (successful completion of each level of the game) and (b) number of attempts (how many times users tried to complete each level successfully). ...
... 2. Efficiency-Efficiency is defined as the resources expended to successfully complete a task [49]. In this study, two variables were used to measure the game's efficiency: level completion time and number of times help asked form the researcher [48]. The results of level completion time show that participants took on average 38-131 s to complete any specific level (see Table 13 Table 13.4). ...
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... Efficiency. Efficiency is defined as the resources expended to complete a task (Ahmed et al., 2019). For this evaluation, two variables were used to measure the game's efficiency: (1) game completion time and (2) number of times help was asked from the instructor while game playing. ...
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