In the fast-moving and volatile world that we live in today, the ability to access up-to-date, interactive information is key. For the 3.8bn people who have no access to the internet and are living in resource-poor communities in developing countries, the prospects of moving out of poverty are diminished by this lack of access.
Voice for Good’s mission is to use the world’s most widely-available instant communication technology – a basic phone call – to unlock the benefits of web-based services for the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.
Whilst there are some great efforts being made by large companies like Facebook, Google and SpaceX to close the global digital divide, the Broadband Commission’s “ambitious” target is to reach just 35% affordable user penetration by 2025 in “Least Developed Countries”, with these efforts accounted for. With not just access but also relevance, literacy, power and training being key factors in adoption, the global population who stand to benefit from VfG’s approach is and will remain significant for the foreseeable future.
Vocodo is VfG’s voice-powered tech platform, supporting 15+ languages and allowing users to communicate with services using natural voice. Users access Vocodo by dialing a local-rate phone number in their country and then communicate with services that are powered by modern, web-powered systems. Tailored user experiences are delivered by Vocodo’s personalisation layer whilst also building a comprehensive data-view of users.
2 proof-of-concept services have been built to date (translation and medical triage), with potential future services in areas of education, agriculture, access to existing NGO services, finance, entertainment, ecommerce and much more.
Summary of the technology
The Vocodo platform brings together a number of best-in-class technologies in novel ways and combines them using VfG’s proprietary code to enhance the user experience. Speech recognition and synthesis technology are provided by Google, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft’s APIs with the platform deciding which provider to use at any time based upon the caller and context. It also dynamically provides ‘hints’ to the APIs to increase the probability of correct recognition based upon the context. For natural language processing, translation and service-specific tasks like medical triage, we use other 3rd-party APIs. In terms of handling the incoming and outgoing audio connection with end users, Vocodo works with both large cloud communications providers like Twilio and directly with local providers in countries like Kenya. On top of this, Vocodo tracks every user-interaction (either anonymised or associated with a user) across the platform and populates the internal database, enabling elements of personalisation for our users, for example saving default selections and skipping T&Cs that a user has recently agreed to.
Prizes, Funding, Competitions, Workshops
Voice for Good was invited to be a project on the Easter 2018 edition of the Cambridge Technology iTeams programme. Please see the relevant webpage: https://iteamsonline.org/finding-the-best-healthcare-applications-for-an-ai-powered-voice-interface-to-web-based-services/
- Anthony Silver is the Founder of Voice for Good. Whilst studying for his undergraduate degree at the London School of Economics, he founded Europe’s first student-focussed VC competition, European Student Startups, which continues to run today. He has 6 years’ experience working in consumer-facing technology, which started at ecommerce company The Hut Group where he managed commercial partnerships and technical platform customization for the likes of Unilever and Elizabeth Arden. After taking on multiple private consulting engagements and interim Head of Technical Product roles, he founded Voice for Good in 2017.
- Jimmy Wanyama is the lead developer of Voice for Good’s platform, Vocodo. He is an experienced IT professional who has managed large project teams and brings a passion for deploying technology that benefits society to his work. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Jimmy held the position of System Architect and Technical Lead for the UNICEF-sponsored Child Helpline service, enabling members of the public in 6 countries to report and receive support regarding cases of violence against children. He has also led projects involving SAP and M-Pesa integrations, peer-to-peer loans and large-scale telephony deployments. Python is Jimmy’s primary programming language although he is comfortable working with a comprehensive suite of back-end programming languages and frameworks.