Earlier this week on 25 Nov 2019, Mozilla and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) made an incredible announcement that will see both organisations join forces in creating open speech data for African languages.
The initiative by Mozilla and BMZ seeks to promote and encourage the collection of open speech data in local languages, as well as the development of local innovation ecosystems for voice-enabled products and technologies.
This will not only promote development for ecosystems in voice-enabled technologies but also open up Africa to the world as the continent holds a vast and rich variety of unexplored languages.
The initiative builds on a pilot project spear headed by Mozilla’s own Open Innovation team and Machine Learning Group that was started together with a Rwandan startup called “Digital Umuganda” earlier this year which focuses on collecting language data in Kinyarwanda.
The initiative also plans on adding other languages from Africa and Asia too which will make it one of the biggest open deep speech and common voice projects in the world.
Common Voice and Deep Speech, which are Mozilla’s own projects will be the major driving force of the joint initiative which aim at collecting diverse voice data and opening up a common, public database for both African and Asian languages.
Mozilla and BMZ seek to promote and encourage the collection of open speech data for African languages
The two organisations, who share a similar vision have also invited like minded companies and countries that are interested in joining the project in an effort to open up language data.
They are also planning on partnering and collaborating with African start-ups which need respective training data in order to develop locally suitable, voice-enabled products or technologies that are relevant to their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The German Ministry so far is carrying out more than 470 digitally enhanced projects in over 90 countries around the world.
As part of their National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, the Federal German Government has agreed to support developing countries in building up capacities and knowledge on opportunities and challenges of AI – an area that the Mozilla Foundation has heavily invested in with their recent work on trustworthy AI.
“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, decentralized, and not driven by monopolies,” says 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,” adds Katharina Borchert, Chief Open Innovation Officer of the Mozilla Corporation.
The cooperation was announced at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin and will be part of the BMZ initiative “Artificial Intelligence for All: FAIR FORWARD”. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed at Mozilla’s headquarters in Mountain View on November 14.
The representatives that signed the Memorandom of Understanding
Mozilla believes that the internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible for all people, no matter where they are and which language they speak. With projects such as Common Voice and Deep Speech, Mozilla’s Machine Learning Group is working on advancing and democratizing voice recognition technology on the web.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.