AI-backed phone service gives offline answers in Nigeria – Yahoo! Voices

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STORY: “Please ask your question after the tone…”

Nigerian resident David Diwa is using an artificial intelligence-powered mobile phone service to help him find a new career.

‘’Sometimes I feel I should leave my carpentry job and start something else because of my weak eyesight. So, I ask the AI questions about businesses and they give me ideas and how to make it grow.’’

The service was launched in Nigeria last month by Canada-based Viamo and allows anyone, even in locations with no internet, to access AI technology.

Viamo uses a traditional handset to tap into local mobile phone networks to send commands or requests for information through SMS or voice calls.

It works like any other AI chatbot, and can be used by illiterate people, since it can be prompted by voice.

And because it saves on data, it’s also cheaper.

Glory Akhabue is Viamo’s Nigeria Regional Platform Manager.

‘’We understand that these people are disconnected because they are currently offline and do not have a mobile phone to access information, and also they do not have a smart phone that they can use to access information on the internet. Most of them, even when they have a smart phone, they are not able to purchase data that they can use to get connected to the internet.”

Visually impaired Nigerian resident Kehinde Olutubosun says the service has been uplifting.

“I was finding it so hard…”

He says he used to ask people to use their smartphones to find answers to his questions.

‘’For people who are not that financially buoyant, they still have this opportunity to use even as little as 10 Naira to ask lots of questions that will actually benefit them. I am so happy,.’

Viamo says the device is targeted to the world’s poorest and most remote communities.

It’s supported by development agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom, among others…

And has partnered with UNICEF to provide information on HIV, tropical diseases, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene.

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