Common Voice Kiswahili Awards

Mozilla is funding people and projects across East Africa who leverage Common Voice’s open-source voice data set to unlock social and economic opportunities.

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Voice technology is increasingly the gateway to the internet — but this technology doesn’t serve everyone equally. Indeed, neither Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, nor Google Home support a single native African language. This means that millions of people who speak Kiswahili and other African languages can’t use voice technology to do something as simple as checking the weather — or something as important as checking for COVID updates.

Mozilla’s Common Voice is an open-source initiative to address this disparity, by creating open-source voice data sets in underserved languages. Much of Common Voice’s work focuses on building a Kiswahili data set — and these Common Voice Kiswahili awards are a part of that work.

Mozilla has awarded eight projects each USD $50,000, leveraging the Kiswahili language and voice technology to increase social and economic opportunities for marginalized groups in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Kiswahili-speaking Democratic Republic of Congo. These awards, totaling $400,000 USD, are advancing financial inclusion, access to reliable information for smallholder farmers, and legal rights to land ownership for marginalized communities.

Meet the Awardees

A group of women seated having a conversation.

ChamaChat by Ujuzi Craft LTD | Kenya

A Chama management system with a chatbot that interacts with members and gives voice replies in Kiswahili via SMS and Whatsapp. It connects to the group Payment API, ie M-Pesa API. Members can interact with the Chama admin bot on a variety of functions, including instance check balance, loan requests and receiving transaction statements.

"A woman holds an Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato at a farm"

Kiazi Bora by Sustain Earth's Environment Africa | Tanzania.

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 the nutritional values of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP), farming skills for better yields, and detailed market availability for raw or processed OFSP food products, all through a voice data set app.


Wezesha na Kabambe by University of Westminster, U.K | Moi University, Kenya | Technical University of Kenya | Western Michigan University, USA.

A mobile enabled Swahili audio chatbot not reliant on internet connectivity. It is developed in collaboration with rural small-holder women farmers in Kenya as an alternative source for agricultural information. Using the Mozilla Swahili data sets, the mobile-enabled chatbot can be used on both feature phones (kabambes) and smartphones by rural smallholder farmers. The interactive Swahili chatbot is powered by a database of frequently asked questions from smallholder women farmers, a marginalized and digitally excluded group. It is inspired by existing familiarity, adoption, and acceptance of mobile technologies in rural areas in Kenya.

An image of two men treating a sick cow

LivHealth Kiswahili Corpus by Badili Innovations | Kenya

LivHealth Kiswahili Corpus aims to empower local communities to correctly identify livestock syndromes and get timely interventions from qualified livestock practitioners. Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the project will build Kiswahili text-to-speech models for disseminating disease information to marginalized communities. Working closely with their partner, One Health Center in Africa (OHRECA) based at ILRI, they will enhance the functionality of the LivHealth system to enable local communities easy access to disease information on demand and in Kiswahili.

An image of two men looking at a mobile device while having a conversation

Imarika by Strathmore University | Kenya

Imarika is a conversational chatbot offering digital climate advisory services in English and Swahili that will support smallholder farmers to adapt to changing weather patterns. The project aims to address the vulnerability of farmers to weather unpredictability due to the lack of accessible, reliable, and localized weather forecasts. Access to weather information is highly variable across sub-Saharan Africa and is usually limited to low-accuracy national or regional forecasts broadcast on radio and/or TV. The project specifically hopes to serve smallholder farmers who often have limited access to localized climate advisory services due to barriers such as slow technology penetration or digital illiteracy.

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Paza Sauti by Tech Innovators Network Ltd | Kenya

The project is developing a chatbot and an interactive voice response service that will provide voice-enabled services in the domain of business registration and raise awareness about the use of collateral (security) to access credit in Kenya. The main objective is to increase financial literacy around moveable properties as collateral, particularly for women in business, and in particular agriculture, for purposes of accessing credit. Although there has been an increase in the ease of getting credit, most members of the population are still unaware of their capability to access further credit as a result of using moveable properties as collateral. This project will be a continuation of an already ongoing collaboration with the Business Registration Service - BRS (State Corporation) in Kenya in the domain of financial inclusion, which serves the Kenya public.

A logo image of the organisation, illustrating text and voice recognition features

Kiswahili Text and Voice Recognition Platform (KTVRP) for Agricultural Advisory and Financial Services for Smallholder Farmers by Duniacom Group, LLC| Tanzania / United States

A majority of smallholder farmers in Tanzania are only able to communicate through the Kiswahili spoken language and its dialects. A text and voice-based platform made available in the language of the underserved (i.e., Kiswahili) would be key to wide access, adoption, and usage of digital agricultural advisory and financial services in Tanzania. The objective is to develop a text and voice recognition platform that will offer smallholder farmers in the Tanzanian Maize Value Chain personalized digital financial and non-financial automated services based on location, agro-ecological zones, and crop cycle. Based on gender-disaggregated data from the pilot phase, it is anticipated that the majority of participants will be women.

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Haki des femmes by Core23Lab | Democratic Republic of Congo
Haki will leverage voice technology to provide access to legal information and support for women in Katanga and Lualaba provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo to ensure they have the right to access, use, inherit, control, and own land. Majority of women in DRC often lose their access to land after the passing of a loved one or husband due to lack of knowledge of land rights. This solution will help women to access information and legal support in securing their land rights in Kiswahili.

These grants are supported by the Gates Foundation in collaboration with the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and GIZ, as a response to a gender conscious and community centered approach to tech development. Ultimately, it advances the use of open-source voice data for products that support community participation and engagement.