The Narendra Modi government is mulling to develop artificial intelligence-powered voice bot on the lines of Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri to expand the reach of government services to smartphone users through its flagship app ‘UMANG’. With the proposed multilingual smart voice assistant, the government seeks to widen the coverage of public services beyond urban areas and facilitate the access of these services to regional language speakers and illiterates as well.
The National e-Governance Division (NeGD) of the IT ministry is schedule to meet and ‘brainstorm’ with technology vendors on October 4. “…UMANG app envisages to enable support for voice-based interactions with the end-user, especially for people less educated, blind or using vernacular languages, and who may face difficulty in entering text in UMANG application and are more comfortable in using voice interaction,” according to the brief for the October 4 workshop.
At present, UMANG app provides about 300 services including broadband, electricity, gas, waters, crop insurance, soil health care services, agricultural advisors, among others, from 66 central departments and 17 states. It targets smartphone users to avail these services, assuming all the users will be able to read and avail these services. While, on the other side, there are several advanced apps that are offering voice-based interactions.
As per the brief, the move is to tap internet users that are likely to come from tier 2 cities and majority of these users are regional/native language speakers. Therefore, voice will emerge as a preferred interface for these new users, provided the complexities in typing on vernacular keyboards.
Google’s Dialogflow platform, which is framework for interaction technologies based on natural language conversations – has been used by the brief to explain the concept of interactions with the UMANG app using voice.
Several private companies including Flipkart and Microsoft are already looking at voice-enabled services to tap users in smaller parts of the country. Flipkart has recently acquired Liv.ai, an artificial intelligence-powered speech recognition startup which has a platform that supports 10 Indian languages, to target next 100-200 million users beyond urban cities.