Mozilla and BMZ partner to open up voice technology for African languages

Hackathon Kigali Kelly Davis 600x400Web browser Mozilla and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) have announced to partner to collect open speech data in local languages and develop local innovation ecosystems for voice-enabled products and technologies

The initiative builds on the pilot project that the Open Innovation team and the Machine Learning Group started with the organisation “Digital Umuganda” earlier this year. The Rwandan start-up collects language data in Kinyarwanda, an African language spoken by over 12mn people.

Morzilla stated that other languages in Africa and Asia are going to be added.

Mozilla’s projects Common Voice and Deep Speech will be the heart of the joint initiative, which aims at collecting diverse voice data and opening up a common, public database. Mozilla and the BMZ are planning to partner and collaborate with African start-ups, which need respective training data in order to develop locally suitable voice-enabled products or technologies.

Mozilla and the BMZ are also inviting like-minded companies and identifying further countries interested in joining their efforts to open up language data.

“Artificial Intelligence is changing and shaping our societies globally. It is critical that these technologies are both trustworthy and truly serve everyone. And that means they need to be developed with local needs and expertise in mind, diverse, decentralised, and not driven by monopolies,” said Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation.

“Innovating in AI poses complex technological, regulatory and ethical challenges. This is why I am very pleased to see multiple teams within Mozilla working together in this promising cooperation with the BMZ, building on our shared visions and objectives for a positive digital future,” added Katharina Borchert, chief open innovation officer of the Mozilla Corporation.

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