Voice-activated virtual assistant technologies, such as Siri and Alexa, are becoming increasingly common around the world, but in Africa, with its many languages, most people are at a digital disadvantage. More than 2,000 distinct languages are spoken in Africa.
Researchers say two-thirds of the native speakers miss out on emerging technologies due to language limitations in the tech world. Nigerian writer and language advocate Kola Tubosun says the issue threatens Africa’s technological future. He has since been trying to promote inclusivity for his native Yoruba tongue.
He created an online Yoruba dictionary as well as a text-to-speech machine that translates English to Yoruba. He said the initiative was partly inspired by his grandfather, who could not read or write in English. Language experts say it will take a long time before African languages are widely adopted in voice-driven technology.
In the meantime, researchers like Tubosun and Awosanya will be working to adapt the Yoruba language for technology users.