Mozilla Common Voice announces $400K in grants for Kiswahili voice tech projects in East Africa

Mozilla Common Voice, an open-source initiative that aims to make voice technology more inclusive has announced $400,000 in grants for voice technologies that leverage its open-source Kiswahili data set. The initiative will support people and projects across East Africa who are using voice technology to unlock social and economic opportunities. 

Awards of up to $50,000 each will be given to winning projects in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Specifically, Common Voice is seeking projects focused on agriculture and finance, and that uplift groups who experience digital exclusion due to gender, income inequality, and location (for example, populations based in rural areas). 

Mozilla Common Voice is an open-source initiative to make voice technology more inclusive. 

“These grants will fuel products powered by open voice data and technology, and built with local community involvement and engagement. And in the long-term, they can help shift power and improve social and economic opportunities for marginalized groups, particularly women, in Kenya, Tanzania, and Kiswahili-speaking DRC.” Chenai Chair, Mozilla’s Africa Innovation Mradi Consultant said.

Winning projects can draw inspiration from existing voice technologies that build on Common Voice data, like Mbaza, a chatbot that provides timely and accurate information about the pandemic in the Kinyarwanda, French, and English languages. 

For example, an ideal project might provide information services for timely pricing updates for small crop farmers. Or provide easy-to-understand information on land rights to communities, such as women in rural areas. 

Applicants will be evaluated by a panel of Mozilla judges and must meet criteria including feasibility, sustainability, impact, data corpus contribution, community engagement, and differentiation. Applicants should also have a core team in place in the region, and make their work available under an open-source license. 

Applications can be done here. The deadline for letter of intent (LOI) submissions is March 22, 2022.

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