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.
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.