Unlocking the Potential for Voice
- May 22, 2019
Africa is home to a rich diversity of languages, but most of the voice-enabled technologies aren’t being developed in African languages. How are Africans expected to tell their own stories if they cannot do so in their native tongues?
In many ways, there is also a high risk of losing many local languages and dialects in this digital era due to the dominance of certain languages used in regional and global conversations.
Mozilla’s Common Voice project is the largest repository of voice data in the world, and it’s free and open source. This means anyone can use it and the vast data is contributed by people all over the world who donate their voices and reading or verifying sentences that help to build this database that anyone can use.
In the same spirit, Mozilla has joined forces with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and co-hosted an ideation hackathon in Kigali to start creating a speech corpus for Kinyarwanda, laying the foundation for local technologists in Rwanda to develop open source voice technologies in their own language.
All this is happening in large part because the monetization opportunities for large companies, that currently sell voice interfaces and datasets, are not available.
Mozilla is owned by a non-profit foundation, and as such, is not concerned with maximizing profit or shareholder value at the risk of a healthy, open and free internet. Therefore, building a platform that focuses on building a database that includes many languages from across the globe is well within its mandate.
Building Internet Infrastructure and Digital Skills
Considering that half the world remains unconnected to the internet, one of the biggest obstacles to the development of internet infrastructure in many countries is a lack of experienced network engineers. A critical mass of network engineers is needed to help shape the future of network infrastructure at both in Africa and global levels.
In a bid to address this gap, Mozilla Foundation, the Internet Society, and the Network Startup Resource Center have partnered to create a cohort of Mozilla Fellows focused on open internet engineering in countries with low internet penetration. Fellows will undertake transformational infrastructure-building projects to ensure efficient and affordable internet transit, working to develop municipal/community internet infrastructure, or establishing national data centres based on open standards and software.
Lean Data Practices Workshops
Mozilla, in partnership with Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK), held several Lean Data Practices (LDP) workshops in Nairobi following a workshop in Delhi in November. Lean Data Practice (LDP) is a framework that individuals should consider when giving their personal data away as well as for corporate and government organizations to think about when collecting and storing data.
“Lean Data Practices are important because they ensure that governments and companies collect only the data that is relevant and necessary for a particular process or activity. We are encouraging the government and companies to adopt the LDPs as a concept and as a practice,” said Alice Munyua, the Africa Policy Advisor for Mozilla.
The team at Mozilla feel that growing both the voice, human capacity and proper data management facets will have a transformational impact on the way business is conducted, how governments operate and the way in which people interact with each other; giving rise to new business and operational models that will provide a wider scope for innovation in Africa. Mozilla is here for all that.
“Our main aim is to support the open internet, empower people to design their online life, stay safe and protected on the internet.”” Ms. Katharina Borchert, Mozilla’s Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) at a panel discussion on ‘Strengthening Innovation Ecosystems in Africa’ at the 2019 Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda.
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