What happens to local politics and education when it's best not to meet face-to-face? The answer is to create telephone systems that broadcast content and facilitate phone conferences. Involving video ignores the 27% of the population without broadband, and 44% of those earning $30,000 per year and less. The answer to cope with Covid 19 is computer telephony integration, which will be essential even after the crisis.
Pondering how to cope with the Covid-19 impact on politics and education, especially in Indian Country, I remembered an experiment I did in the 1990s to foster telephonic broadcast and political discussion in a single small town.
Along with many other C programmers, I bought telecom boards and wrote software that answered the phone, took messages, and dial out automatically. I also put political content on touchtone menus. I created “Town Meeting on Phone Tape “- I recorded political meetings from both parties in three contexts: local, state, and federal – during the 1990s. The project ended after two years. Curated audio was dialed out to every number in the Maplewood NJ & vicinity phone book, tens of thousands of calls per year over two years. About 35% of respondents listened to the entire message before hanging up - it was something of a novelty at the time. Some politicians didn’t want the presence of a tape recorder, likewise they didn’t want a broadcast out of their control, although Democrats and Republicans were both sometimes receptive. a) Democratic audiences generated more audience noise in the form of laughter, clapping, hoots and hollers, etc. b) Republicans dwelt more on financial matters than Democrats.
The software and hardware needed to accomplish a similar system is better and cheaper than in the 1990s. From a humanitarian point of view, it is important to avoid video in such systems. About 27% of Americans don't have broadband net access, 44% for those earning less than $30,000.
Such a system could handle more than politics.
"The advantages [wealthy educated] parents give...children...start early on....children of professional families hear more spoken words - about 2,100 per hour - compared to 1,200 per hour in working-class families and 600 per hour in families on welfare....Children in professional families [hear] millions more words every year than in a family on welfare." (The Third Pillar, 2020, Raghuram Rajan p.220) . This is a problem that the technologists have long been able to do something about. Nobody has done it. There is no reason for this lapse by educators, technologists, or politicians. There's nothing that can be written on the web that cannot be spoken through telephones. It really is that simple.
Meditation, or, say, staring into a fire on a beach - quiet activities, no activities - all have peaceful value. But when it comes to education, employment, and the hard light of day, the more words the better.
Covid has lifted the curtain on these obvious telephonic applications. Hiding them has been the corporate drive to sell cell phones, computers and to push out the Internet.
I have started a website to further such systems: www.telexa.net. I am not trying to make money here, but I sense Telexa could be a killer app. I am looking for chances, a pilot project, to develop such a system within Indian Country. Please call me to discuss any ideas. I would do the development at no cost, and within reasonable limits cover telephone charges for a year or more – you would get copies of all software. Or maybe together we could build a system that is worth something.