Bridging the Digital Divide with AI-Powered Phones

Artificial Intelligence and Smartphone
Need info but no smartphone or internet? AI-powered phones bring knowledge to those without traditional access.

In a world increasingly reliant on digital connectivity, the lack of access to smartphones and the internet has left many behind. However, a new initiative is changing that narrative by leveraging AI technology to bring digital access to those in remote or financially constrained environments, without the need for internet connectivity or sophisticated devices.In a world where smartphones and internet access are often considered essential, a significant portion of the global population remains excluded from the benefits of digital information. However, an innovative AI-backed phone solution is emerging to bridge this gap, providing answers and knowledge even to those without smartphones or internet connectivity.

Key Highlights:

  • A service by Canada-based Viamo has been launched in Nigeria, enabling access to AI technology through traditional handsets that connect to local mobile networks for information requests via SMS or voice calls.
  • This innovative solution caters to individuals without smartphones or internet access, like the visually impaired Nigerian, Kehinde Olutubosun, who can now seek information about his interests in geography and animals.
  • The AI-powered phone service is designed for ease of use, allowing even illiterate persons to access information through voice prompts and at an affordable cost, with services costing as little as 10 naira.
  • After its initial launch in Zambia, the service is now expanding to Pakistan, India, and Tanzania, targeting some of the world’s poorest and most remote communities.
  • The project receives support from development agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom, with UNICEF partnering to provide vital information on health and hygiene topics.

This innovative approach to digital inclusion highlights the potential of AI and mobile technology to bridge the gap for those without traditional internet access, making information and educational resources more accessible to all. By offering a practical solution that leverages existing mobile networks, Viamo’s service represents a significant step forward in democratizing access to information and technology globally.

How AI-Powered Phones Work

These remarkable phones don’t rely on the internet. Instead, they leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in conjunction with traditional cellular networks. Users can interact with the AI system through SMS text messages or voice calls, posing questions or seeking information just like they would with an internet-connected search engine or AI chatbot.

The AI technology processes the query, accesses its knowledge base, and delivers relevant information back to the user via a simple text or voice message. This solution is remarkably inclusive since even people who do not have smartphones or cannot read can benefit from it.

Making Vital Information Accessible

One company pioneering this technology is Viamo. This Canadian-based organization has designed its AI-powered phone service to target some of the world’s poorest and most remote areas. Its mission is to make crucial information readily available to those who may lack traditional avenues of knowledge access.

The AI can answer questions on a wide array of topics vital to such communities. These include:

  • Health and wellness: Information on diseases, treatments, and preventative care.
  • Agriculture: Guidance on farming techniques, crop yields, and market prices.
  • Education: Access to basic knowledge and educational resources.
  • News and current affairs: Keeping communities informed.

Real-World Impact

Visually impaired individuals like Kehinde Olutubosun in Nigeria are already experiencing the life-changing benefits of AI-powered phones. Before, finding information relevant to his interests was a struggle. Now, he can conveniently access the knowledge he craves, contributing to his personal growth and well-being.Beyond Nigeria, Viamo is expanding its service to other countries like Pakistan, India, and Tanzania, aiming to bring the power of information to millions more who currently have limited options.

A Solution for the Digital Divide

The development of AI-backed phones represents a significant step forward in bridging the digital divide. It empowers communities that might otherwise be left behind, providing them with tools to make informed decisions, improve their lives, and participate in a more connected world.

About the author

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Shweta Bansal

Shweta, a tech journalist from New Delhi, specializes in AI and IOT. Her insightful articles, featured in leading tech publications, blend complex tech trends with engaging narratives, emphasizing the role of women in tech.

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