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Job, Just a Call Away (Voice and Data, April 2011)

Spoken Web-an initiative of Karnataka Vocational Training & Skills Development Corp and IBM-is a smart employability platform that will connect job seekers with job providers. A boon especially for those in the rural sector.

Within a short span of time, a mobile phone will facilitate finding the right job opportunity and source the right employees. Karnataka Vocational Training and Skill Development Corporation (KVTSDC), a part of the state's Department of Labor and IBM has introduced a 'Smarter Employability Platform' to generate employment opportunities and skill-enhancement programs via spoken web. This initiative is designed to connect both the potential employable individuals and employers especially in rural areas and particularly the unorganized sector.

"As an organization, IBM's goal is to be a key enabler to India's national agenda and help it to become a smarter nation. IBM envisions a society where innovative technologies are optimally used to build a stronger and a more efficient workforce. Our engagement with KVTSDC will create a platform for the entire ecosystem of job seekers, job providers, and training agencies particularly in the unorganized sector to reach out to each other using local languages,” says Dr. Manish Gupta, director, IBM Research India, and chief technologist, IBM India and South Asia. He also adds, "With this first of its kind project, KVTSDC can easily identify the skill gaps in various regions and take the necessary steps to improve the conversion of available workforce to gainful employment. It will also help enhance the overall skill base of the state.”

Karnataka is the first state to set up a skill commission and take the lead in the Government of India's objective of having 500 man skilled people in India by 2022. The Karnataka skill commission and the KVTSDC were constituted in September 2008 with the objective of creating 1 mn new jobs within 5 years.

"This technology will be a boon for the rural and the unorganized sector as they cannot access Internet to find a job due to the ubiquitous nature of mobile. We are investing Rs. 20 lakh in this pilot project. While IBM supports with its cutting-edge technology, we provide logistics and assist through our employment exchanges across the state," says Umashankar, IAS commissioner, KVTSDC.

“Skill matching is a major challenge in the job market be it in an organized or an unorganized sector. This initiative will empower the untapped unorganized sector," mentions Gopal Pingali, program director for cloud center of excellence and research collaborator for service science, IBM Research.

Spoken Web

IBM Research will extend technological support to Spoken Web-a voice based cloud technology which provides access and information through mobile or landline in local languages. IBM's mobile crowd-sourcing-platform, pay-as-young model, and elastic scaling will bring together job seekers, job providers, training, and certification agencies. Job seekers will be enabled to create a voice site and will have to register their name, age educational qualification, skill set, experience, location, expected salary, and a brief about them. Once registered they can find available jobs and apply for  the same and also refer opportunities to their friends. Employers can avail this spoken web technology to post jobs, increase reach, find right candidates, connect with trainers, and track the latest trends through both mobile phones and web channels. Spoken web will be launched in three languages - English, Kannada and Hindi, initially. As the voice based interaction is time-consuming, the platform supports navigation hence it can be past forwarded or bookmarked for accessing it later.

Gopal Pingali explains, "Our proven technology built on employability analytics is a unique skill-matching technique to match job seekers. This platform will give a clear picture about the demand and supply trends of the job market." The collaboration exemplifies IBM's commitment of being a part of the industry's ecosystem supporting clients and business partners to solve industry specific issues. This First-Of-A-Kind program (FOAK) engages clients' experts in research projects to explore how emerging technologies could solve real industry problems, he adds

  Project Rollout

Three organizations are striving to interconnect an ecosystem of a job market-KVTSDC, IBM, and Directorate of Employment and Training. Directorate of Employment and Training will assist through its Human Resource and Development Centers (HRDC). V Venugopal, assistant director, Directorate of Employment and Training comments, "labor market may not be employable. We will fill the skill gap through our assessment programs."

The first rood of short trial was con-ducted a couple of months back during a job fair in Mandya and Bijapur. Now this second round of pilot project will be rolled out in two phases and it will cover 8 districts within a year. In the first phase, the 'Smarter Employability Platform' will be implemented in Mandya and Bijapur districts for the first three months. Later it will be implemented in six other districts.

V Venugopal expresses a few challenges despite the proven technology offered by the IT giant. Firstly the linguistics, as there are various dialects in most of the Indian languages. Secondly, the shelf life of a vacancy is important as job seekers/providers may search same candidature even after the position is filled. Lastly, the public should upload profiles on voice sites accurately without fumbling.