How do you make the internet accessible for people who are too poor to even understand it? The Question Box connects poor people to a telephone operator who can answer their questions via the internet.
But because many villagers have no conception of what the internet is (“They just assume the operator is some egghead,” said Sundaram), they’re limited in the scope of questions they think to ask. Shuman’s team is considering whether and how to convey the internet’s potential uses to villagers in future. Their other pressing concern is how the Question Box model scales up. Operators currently receive about 70 calls per week in India and 300 in Uganda, with limited resources preventing them from promoting the service more widely. Shuman plans to keep it free for users, but may solicit advertisements to play before a call or to display on the box itself.