Mozilla has announced a collaboration that will see eight companies developing Kiswahili voice technologies receive $50,000 grant each to advance their functionalities.
Each of the eight companies drawn from Kenya, Tanzania and the Swahili-speaking Democratic Republic of Congo have developed an application that helps women living in the interior, marginalized or underdeveloped areas of these countries to access useful information. This information is to help them improve their lives by delivering tips on agricultural practices of better farm management in Swahili via feature phones (kabambes) as well as smartphones.
According to Mozilla, many women in Africa engaged in informal self-development schemes such as merry-go-rounds (chamas) and farming have little access to information that helps them to improve their record keeping/management, accessing credible and reliable weather updates, monitoring livestock diseases, or any other that’s useful in the adding value to their agricultural practices.
The grant is facilitated by Mozilla’s Common Voice, the company’s arm that aims to develop machines that can make better use of voice technologies.
Chenai Chair, Senior Program Officer – Africa Innovation said “Infusing people’s languages into the technology we build is a critical step towards creating technologies that center communities of end users. These projects have been selected for their creative solutions touching core, community-based social-economic interventions. We are very excited by this cohort of awardees and the important work they are about to undertake.”
The range of solutions developed by the companies awarded the grant includes audio chatbots, SMS solutions, text-to-speech applications and other interactive technologies all aiming at delivering helpful messages to rural women in simplified ways.
Kenya’s ChamaChat, for instance, has a chama management system with a chatbot that interacts with members and gives voice replies in Kiswahili via SMS and Whatsapp.
Kiazi Bora, “Quality Potatoes’’ in swahili, uses a voice-enabled application that informs vulnerable women living in rural areas and marginalized communities of Tanzania on farming skills for better yields as well as market availability.
Here is the full list of the beneficiaries of the grant.
- ChamaChat by Ujuzi Craft LTD- Kenya
- Kiazi Bora by Sustain Earth’s Environment Africa –Tanzania
- Wezesha na Kabambe by University of Westminster- the United Kingdom / Kenya
- LivHealth Kiswahili Corpus by Badili Innovations – Kenya
- Imarika by Strathmore University – Kenya
- Paza Sauti by Tech Innovators Network Ltd- Kenya
- Kiswahili Text and Voice Recognition Platform (KTVRP)- Tanzania / United States
- Haki des femmes by Core23Lab | Democratic Republic of Congo