An app is bridging the language gap between the Indian government and its citizens, who speak a wide variety of languages.
What’s new: Jugalbandi helps Indians learn about government services, which typically are described online in English and Hindi, in their native tongues. The project is a collaboration between Microsoft and open-source developers AI4Bharat and OpenNyAI.
How it works: Jugalbandi harnesses an unspecified GPT model from the Microsoft Azure cloud service and models from AI4Bharat, a government-backed organization that provides open-source models and datasets for South Asian languages. As of May, the system covered 10 of India’s 22 official languages (out of more than 120 that are spoken there) and over 170 of the Indian government’s 20,000 programs.
- Users send text or voice messages to a WhatsApp number associated with Jugalbandi. The system transcribes voice messages into text using the speech recognition model IndicWav2Vec. Then it translates the text into English using IndicTrans.
- Jugalbandi queries documents for information relevant to the user’s request using the Retrieval Augmented Generation model and generates responses using an unspecified OpenAI model. IndicTrans translates the answer into the user’s language, and one of AI4Bharat’s Indic text-to-speech models renders voice output for users who submitted their queries by voice.
Behind the news: While language models are helping citizens understand their governments, they’re also helping governments understand their citizens. In March, Romania launched ION, an AI system that scans social media comments on government officials and policy and summarizes them for ministers to read.
Why it matters: India is a highly multilingual society, and around a quarter of its 1.4 billion residents are illiterate. Consequently, many people in India struggle to receive government benefits and interact with central authorities. This approach may enable Indians to use their own language via WhatsApp, which has more than 400 million users in that country.
We’re thinking: In February, Microsoft researchers showed that large language models are approaching state-of-the-art results in machine translation. Indeed, machine translation is headed toward a revolution as models like GPT 3.5 (used in the study) and GPT-4 (which is even better) make translations considerably easier and more accurate.