Voice-operated smartphones are aiming at a vast yet widely overlooked market in sub-Saharan Africa the tens of millions of people who face huge challenges in life because they cannot read or write.

Voice-operated smartphones target Africas illiterate

In Ivory Coast, a so-called “Superphone” using a vocal assistant that responds to commands in a local language is being pitched to the large segment of the population – as many as 40% – who are illiterate. Developed and assembled locally, the phone is designed to make everyday tasks more accessible, from understanding a document and checking a bank balance to communicating with government agencies. “I’ve just bought this phone for my parents back home in the village, who don’t know how to read or write,” said Floride Jogbe, a young woman who was impressed by adverts on social media. She believed the 60 000 CFA francs ($92) she forked out was money well spent. Voice-operated smartphones, The smartphone uses an operating system called “Kone” that is unique to the Cerco company, and covers 17 languages spoken in Ivory Coast, including Baoule, Bete, and Dioula, as well as 50 other African languages. Cerco hopes to expand this to 1,000 languages, reaching half of the continent’s population, thanks to help from a network of 3,000 volunteers.

The goal is to address the “frustration” illiterate people feel with technology that requires them to be able to read or write or spell effectively, said Cerco president Alain Capo-Chichi, a Benin national. Voice-operated smartphones, “Various institutions set down the priority of making people literate before making technology available to them,” “Our way skips reading and writing and goes straight to integrating people into economic and social life.” Of the 750 million adults around the world who cannot read or write, 27% live south of the Sahara, according to UN figures for 2016, the latest year for which data is available. The continent also hosts nearly 2 000 languages, some of which are spoken by tens of millions of people and are used for inter-ethnic communication, while others are dialects with a small geographical spread. Lack of numbers or economic clout often means these languages are overlooked by developers who have already devised vocal assistants for languages in bigger markets.

Source: This news is originally published by africaninsider

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