This is how you fix the Voice technology problem in Africa

Voice is the future. This is an adage that has been repeated for years now, it is also the basis for a lot of the inventions that you see today in the technology world. More devices have voice recognition capabilities than ever before and it is not just limited to mobile phones. Cars, and home appliances are picking up the same technology. There is a great appeal that comes from using your voice to command devices and power up machines.

Much as the use of voice is growing around the world it is not so prominent in Africa. It appears to be dragging on our continent and this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Africa has been identified as the next frontier of investment and just like Voice, Africa has been called the future, so why is this futuristic tech not here yet? When you look at the major drivers of voice such as Google, Apple and Siri, their devices are designed to suit the the Americas, Europe and some of the Asian markets not so much Africa but that’s not to say that there is nothing that can be done. Here is how to fix Africa’s underwhelming voice penetration

The Accent

As a Ugandan that has tried to use Google Assistant and Siri which are the major voice drivers at my disposal, it is can get difficult to get the devices to understand what you are saying. It is true that voice it has been difficult for voice operated systems to understand human speech but in the recent years, this has changed a lot so that means the problem is more to do with the accent. Africa has a lot of languages and accents, all these voice recognition systems are designed and tested by people in the western world so naturally their accent is the default and when one uses an African accent things get very tricky. If these tech giants can use their resources to incorporate the various accents into their systems then we could be one step closer to voice working for Africa.

The languages

Besides English I have not seen another language that is compatible with voice activated devices at least with the case of Google Assistant, Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. It would be a lot better for the African market if more African languages can be included to these systems. Google has been able to translate lots of languages with their translate service, so how about doing that for voice.Come on Google!



8 thoughts on “This is how you fix the Voice technology problem in Africa

  1. I think we shouldn’t wait for google to translate all our languages considering we have many. We should be able to do it ourselves. And the speech recognition platforms like Siri, Alexa and the rest have only become as good as they are today by learning from available data or from constant use by everyone. These are problems that we should be able to solve ourselves as Africans and not wait for Siri/Alexa to come and add all African languages onto their platforms.

    1. I like this suggestion. I guess this is a much much better way of going about it. I now wonder how this can be implemented. Could you suggest how you think one would go about this? Thanks Pius

  2. Good Read
    Well, frankly speaking, I think Africa needs to adopt to change and do all it can to catch up with these very revolutionary tech advances. A good example is Singapore which chose English over Chinese, and over the years has altered her culture to attract and encourage regional networking and exchange of innovations.
    Trade barriers associated with language and tech-knowhow are one of the leading constrains in doing business today and unless we the Millennial generation adopt to this change, we are going to drag our progress.
    Accent mix-up is indeed a sounding issue, but certainly a mountain that has no-foreseeable solution

  3. I think there isn’t any one way but several ways put together can get this thing off. I recently participated in an Artificial Intelligence Hackathon organized the Zindi that was aimed at designing an AI model of the likelihood of a tweet going viral. There were several participants and prize money too. Such things can get individuals or groups interested in challenges aimed at solving problems on the continent.

  4. We had lessons in statistics back in high school and some of them required us to find the line of best fit from data that was given to us which would enable us find a model to predict the likelihood of something happening given a set of dat. Little did we know and neither did our teachers, i think, that this was the beginning of the AI syllabus. Majority of what we went through in sciences was mostly to pass exams but very few or none knew its applications including our teachers which is very sad.

    Interestingly, we have people starting to get excited about data science and companies like Google and Amazon are giving people access to data science tools on their platforms that do not require people to do a whole PHD course to grasp. Our educational institutions should find a way of incorporating this into their syllabuses as well as have teachers go an extra mile in learning how their lessons are applied in the real world and if this is not possible, have individuals in the various industries give lectures to students and give them some sort of pre-internship training on what happens in the real world and how they can relate what they are studying to it.

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