287 million people in India are illiterate. Tech developers at Cornell have started a platform called LitOS to enable populations with low literacy levels to use mobile technology with comfort and confidence. By replacing text with relevant images and offering audio recitations of incoming messages, this tool allows users to navigate the interface, make phone calls, and even send text messages by following intuitive pictorial cues. While LitOS won’t end the problem of illiteracy, by offering a product that meets users where they are, it offers a shortcut to agency through technology.

Are there other populations that could benefit from adapted interface designs? Do you see any potentially negative consequences of such adaptive innovations? Add your voice to the discussion on Vialogues.

Excerpts from the discussion:

@00:42 Toland Lawrence: I think this is a wonderful idea to help an underserved population. According to a UNESCO report, 774 million adults in the world are illiterate. That's about twice the size of the U.S. population! So I imagine there is definitely a market if it is created in a way that works for users and serves their needs.

@00:52 Sara Hardman: My one concern is that tech is often limited in global contexts where illiteracy is a big problem. How will people have access to smartphones in these contexts? How will they have access to the internet? Does the problem of illiteracy need more structural and resource-based solutions first before content for those resources?