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Do you waver between hope and trepidation when it comes to artificial intelligence?

What will the effects of AI be on communities in the developing world?
Can AI catapult communities into positive change?
Could AI set back the already marginalized?
How can we ensure user safeguards?

We have answers. 

For over a decade, Viamo has been providing solutions to bridge the digital divide, creating pathways of connection for the most vulnerable communities. 

Now, we’ve taken our biggest leap yet. 

Introducing ‘Ask Viamo Anything’

Ask Viamo Anything is the first-ever Generative Artificial Intelligence voice-based assistant designed specifically for those still untouched by the internet’s reach.

By using voice communication, Ask Viamo Anything is accessible from any mobile phone. 

With mobile phones’ 91% global penetration, the Generative AI voice assistant provides critical information to underserved communities on a staggering range of topics: from humanitarian crises and public health, to climate resiliency and advanced agricultural methods. 

And we know what they’re asking.

Preliminary Results

Viamo’s report will soon be available although the pilot remains live and continues to gather real-time data. 

Through this pilot, we deployed the GenAI feature to 500 users in Zambia. These were existing Viamo Platform users, through our partnership with MTN in Zambia.

When these users called into the Platform’s short-code number, they were given the option to use the GenAI or continue to the traditional menu of pre-recorded livelihood messages. 

At publication time, 62% had opted into the Voice assistant and had asked 555 questions.

  1. By far, users asked the most questions about health.

    In the first three weeks of the study, more than a third of users’ questions were related to physical or mental health, as compared to questions about agriculture or climate (7%), economic growth or finance (6%), and education (5%). Remaining categories included arts and entertainment, religion and technology, but comprised far fewer percentages by category. More than half of users’ questions related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

  2. Women are just as likely as men to opt into using GenAI.

    Users identifying as women are choosing to engage with the voice assistant just as much as men users. The pilot is specifically tailored to bridge the gap that reports women in developing communities lag in digital literacy.

  3. Of people who asked a legitimate question, 90% received a legitimate answer.

    In the first two weeks, 489 questions were asked. And Ask Viamo Anything produced 453 valid answers, for a success rate of 93%. There were indications of quick learning by the users in how to use the digital assistant and in it responding favorably.

  4. 90% asked at least one other question within 2 days

    As the pilot extends past the initial three-week testing phase, we are seeing many repeat and return users. The number of users choosing to engage with the voice assistant continues to grow and gain following, indicating comprehension, ease of use and growing trust.

  5. People are using it safely.

    None of the questions asked through our Platform triggered any of the built-in alerts. These indicate speech with hate, threats, violence, self-harm or other moderation triggers coded into the system.

And there are several additional fascinating and newsworthy findings in our upcoming report.

This data is also evolving as the study remains active and expanding. The pilot will expand to multiple countries throughout Africa and beyond English. While these results are proprietary and evolving, we are eager to share them with partners, donors and others who want to learn new standards as they are being discovered.

GenAI as a Programmatic Solution

At this time, Viamo is seeking partners to join us in supporting this responsible research for the Generative AI frontier as we expand to additional countries and languages.

While testing and learning continue, we will not be offering Ask Viamo Anything as a product to our regular development partners. Instead, we are currently looking for large-scale foundational partners who share our vision of offering the power of GenAI to the 2 billion people who currently don’t have access to the internet.

Upon further research, testing and product development, this technology will be offered across all of our services on our Viamo Platform – including Digital Training, Surveys, Campaigns and Marketing. We expect this to start in 2024.

Voice-Enabled Accessibility: Voice bridges the digital divide for those with limited literacy – in language and tech. Countries throughout Africa and South Asia have leapfrogged several technologies, especially in mobile. We believe Ask Viamo Anything will continue this leapfrogging for people in communities with limited technological infrastructure, digital literacy and education opportunities.
Comprehensive Information: Ask Viamo Anything covers a wide range of topics, ensuring communities have access to essential knowledge that can improve their well-being, livelihoods and decision-making capabilities. We are actively reviewing this content and engagement with it in real time to ensure immediate and ongoing safeguards for users – which can inform AI for development into the future.
Tailored to Local Context: Ask Viamo Anything is designed to adapt – with live data and immediate course corrections to GenAI tech – to cater to the unique needs and cultural nuances of each community it serves, providing safe, accurate, localized and contextually relevant information.
User-Friendly Experience: Ask Viamo Anything’s intuitive interface and simple voice commands make it easy for users to interact, empowering individuals of all genders, ages and backgrounds to access information effortlessly. A key focus of our research is tailoring the service to ensure women and girls’ improved usage, digital literacy and accessibility – particularly around issues that matter to them.
Driven by the Viamo Platform: Every month, tens of millions of people use the Viamo Platform for the same reason you browse the Internet: to access on-demand information, find services nearby or purchase products. The Viamo Platform has 12 million subscribers and is growing, across more than 20 countries. GenAI is a free service on the Platform.

Our vision is to provide the power of Generative AI to 2 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to the internet – but we can’t do this alone! This will require a partnership of organizations including telecoms, LLM providers, NLU providers and development partners.

Interested in joining this movement?