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Microsoft unveils “Jugalbandi”, GPT-powered AI Chatbot for Indian Villagers

AI chatbot for Indians

A new AI Chatbot “Jugalbandi” unveiled by Microsoft, helps Indian Villagers to access Government services & schemes easily via WhatsApp in their own language.

The advent of artificial generative intelligence or generative-AI platforms such as ChatGPT, and Bard has unearthed huge potentials and applications for the AI field to be incorporated into every possible sector for upgrading and serving the best needs to people. Dozens of platforms are now GPT-powered, ever since Microsoft backed OpenAI open-sourced its AI model.

And here comes another AI chatbot, called “Jugalbandi” exclusively made for Indian villagers for letting them know about government services and schemes easily in their own language.

Jugalbandi for Indian Villagers

Jugalbandi is an AI Chatbot developed for Indians, which provides easy access to all information, related to schemes and services, in local language through text or voice message via smartphone. Built collaboratively by Microsoft and AI4Bharat, an open-source language AI center based at the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras (IIT-M), Chennai, the chatbot aims to be a frontier for addressing queries of anything about Indian Government schemes, scholarships, services and more.

Schemes by Indian Govt seldom reach to every Indian nook & corner, as only 11% of the population can speak English, and 57% can speak Hindi, leaving behind vast number of population unable to access the information from government’s portal.

Jugalbandi confronts this diversity of India, by supporting 10 out of 22 official languages in India (FYI, 387 different languages are spoken in India, unofficially), where people can ask questions in their own language, either spoken or typed. Thanks to AI4Bharat’s language model.

“It understands your exact problem in your language and tries to deliver the right information reliably and cheaply, even if that exists in some other language in a database somewhere,” says Abhigyan Raman, a project officer at AI4Bharat.

Significance of Jugalbandi

Jugalbandi is not just only GPT-powered, but is a product of three models blended together – Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service, AI4Bharat and Bhashini. Microsoft Azure OpenAI service contrives the capability of GPT AI model for accessing and reasoning the Indian government databases in Jugalbandi. AI4Bharat pulls in speech recognition model and Bhashini heeds translation from one language to another. Bhashini is in turn developed by AI4Bharat.

With this, Jugalbandi covers 171 government programs out of 20,000 (approximately) and knows 10 languages, as of May 23, 2023. The chatbot can be accessed via WhatsApp by messaging to a number, which is not yet revealed.

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How does it work?

Accessing Jugalbandi is simpler than accessing ChatGPT, as it is voice-enabled.

This is how it works. A villager sends a text or audio message to a WhatsApp number, which initiates the Jugalbandi bot. That in turn is translated to English by the Bhashini translation model. Based on the prompt, Azure OpenAI Service’s model retrieves information on the relevant government scheme. The answer is translated to the required language, which is then synthesized with the AI4Bharat text-to-speech model and sent back to WhatsApp to be heard by the villager.

Building a chatbot used to be a complex task, requiring a flow chart. “Whereas now, with a bit of language tech, the government can just upload documents and it works,” said Pratyush Kumar, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research India. “This democratizes not just who consumes this but also who produces it.”

What if Jugalbandi makes mistakes?

AI models are probabilistic machines and are hence prone to make errors. This puts a need for a validating system that checks for the trueness of the information. For this, Microsoft welcomes Gram Vaani, a Delhi-based social enterprise which provides agricultural news and a tech platform for requests for help and grievances, all through basic cellphones. Gram Vaani’s interactive voice platform has 3 million users across northern and central India and has been working with farmers for years.

“Jugalbandi can really scale a lot of our work,” said Aaditeshwar Seth, co-founder of Gram Vaani. They are now seeking to integrate Jugalbandi with Mobile Vaani, Gram Vaani’s mobile voice portal.

Further, AI4Bharat aims to resolve number of issues and queries for people who has no direct interaction with tech because of language barriers. For example, AI4Bharat is working on an AI chatbot called “OpenNyAI”, which helps domestic workers and garbage collectors in Bengaluru understand their legal rights. Jugalbandi might be incorporating OpenNyAI anytime in future.

Real use-cases

Vandna, 18-yr-old Girl from Punjab

In an example reported by Microsoft, a 18-year-old girl from Ferozepur village in Punjab tested the Jugalbandi chatbot, asking for scholarships based on her course of studies. The chatbot replied with a list of central and state government programs. She picked one and asked about eligibility criteria. Jugalbandi provided those and also told her what documents she needed to support the application.

A traditional web search would have given her a long list of links to plow through, she said.

“Jugalbandi gives me one answer at a time,” she said in Hindi. “It’s easier to understand.” She applied for a scholarship in mid-April and is waiting to hear back.

Artificial Intelligence technology has now reached villages in deep India, and it’s revolutionary to witness such a great development!

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