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.
In 2022, Mozilla Common Voice is providing $400,000 USD in grants for voice technologies that leverage our open-source Kiswahili data set. 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).
Click here to apply, and read below to learn more.
We welcome innovative ideas in thinking of how the Mozilla Common Voice data set may be used to develop new or integrate into existing voice technology solutions for the public good. More so, how these technologies may be used in bridging the digital divide and supporting the inclusion of marginalized groups in accessing digital services.
The project proposals should provide solutions in both agriculture and/or finance sectors that address specific needs of particular digital excluded groups, for example, women and smallholder farmers in rural areas. To provide some perspective, we have highlighted a few potential areas to build on.
— Advisory and Information Service: Providing relevant information to smallholder farmers and households. For example, solutions to improve crop yields, farming methods, farming produce pricing, markets, or an easy-to-follow land rights guide.
— Administrative Assistant: Solutions might assist in better record-keeping of farming produce, purchases, and expenses.
— Service Access: For instance, voice-enabled banking services or crop and yields insurance in local languages to allow for greater financial inclusion.
— Administrative Functions: Such as verifying transactions, or biometric requests to authenticate a user.
— Financial Literacy: Creating awareness and financial literacy support. For instance, table banking and saving interventions for groups such as Chamas/Vikobas and small-scale producers.
Eligibility and Deadlines
Projects will be judged by a committee of internal Mozilla team members, advisors, and external experts. The criteria for the Common Voice Kiswahili grant call is detailed in full in our application and include feasibility, impact, data corpus contribution, community engagement, differentiation and iteration, and sustainability.
Applicants should have a core team in place in East Africa (specifically based in Kenya, Tanzania, and/or the Kiswahili speaking part of DRC). Individuals or small communities and teams; small or medium-sized enterprises (fewer than 50 employees); non-profits; and for-profits are all eligible.
For full details on the 2022 Common Voice Open Call, please consult the application guide here. The LOI submission is now closed. The full application deadline is April 26, 2022, at 17:00 CAT.