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Jugalbandi AI chatbot – Here’s what Microsoft’s new multilingual generative AI app for India does

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Jugalbandi AI chatbot

Microsoft is making strides in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) with its latest offering, Jugalbandi AI chatbot. This generative AI-driven platform is designed to facilitate easier access to information about government initiatives and public programs in India.

Jugalbandi is a free and open platform that combines the power of ChatGPT and Indian language translation models, enabling conversational AI solutions across various domains. This is particularly significant in India, where there are nearly 22 official languages, along with numerous local and regional variations, making the dissemination of information a significant challenge.

“Jugalbandi” is a nod to Indian classical music, representing the harmonious exchange between the user and the AI system.

Importance of Jugalbandi AI chatbot for Indians

Numerous studies have highlighted the barriers to societal progress in India. These obstacles have been difficult to overcome due to the country’s linguistic diversity and the preference of many Indians for spoken communication rather than written. Consequently, a substantial number of government schemes and entitlements fail to reach the intended beneficiaries.

However, with the emergence of large language models and voice-to-voice translation models, a breakthrough is on the horizon. Jugalbandi aims to harness the power of these models through an open and collaborative approach, empowering millions of Indian citizens in areas such as justice, education, and health.

Since its introduction in the village of Biwan in early April, Jugalbandi has expanded to cover 10 of India’s 22 official languages and approximately 171 out of 20,000 government programs.

Smita Gupta, a lawyer working with OpenNyAI, a collaborative initiative aiming to enhance access to law and justice through AI, highlighted the positive impact of Jugalbandi in facilitating access to precise information. This, in turn, reduces the need for multiple visits to government service centers and minimizes the hassle of retrieving missing documents.

How does “Jugalbandi” operate?

The Jugalbandi AI assistant utilizes language models from AI4Bharat, a government-backed initiative, and reasoning models from Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service. The platform is accessed through the widely popular mobile messaging system, WhatsApp.

Jugalbandi operates through a simple process: villagers send a text or audio messages to a designated WhatsApp number, which triggers the Jugalbandi bot. The message is transcribed using the AI4Bharat speech recognition model, then translated to English through the Bhashini translation model.

Based on the query, Azure OpenAI Service’s model retrieves relevant information about the government scheme, which is then translated back into Hindi. The response is synthesized using the AI4Bharat text-to-speech model and sent back to the villagers via WhatsApp.

Jugalbandi has the capability to synthesize large volumes of data and create diverse outputs like text and images. The AI chatbot has undergone meticulous training using data sourced from Indian government databases, which are being progressively added to the system. The integration of Azure OpenAI Service guarantees the security of data and incorporates responsible AI measures, including content filtering, to ensure the appropriateness of the generated content.

Digitalization in India

India has a track record of developing digital public goods and implementing them at scale. Projects like Aadhaar, a biometric identity system, and the Unified Payments Interface for digital transactions have demonstrated the country’s commitment to leveraging emerging technologies for the benefit of its citizens.

In July 2022, the government launched Bhashini, a language solutions platform, to enhance Indians’ access to the internet and digital services in their native languages. AI4Bharat, a research group involved in Jugalbandi, has received funding from Nilekani Philanthropies and Microsoft.

Pratyush Kumar, co-principal investigator at AI4Bharat and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research India, shared insights into the origins of Jugalbandi. He said that the team initially explored translating legal judgments in collaboration with the Supreme Court of India and transcribing videos with subtitles to aid effective learning in schools and colleges.

Previously, building a chatbot was a complex task requiring intricate flowcharts. However, with the introduction of language tech, the government can now simply upload documents, democratizing both the consumption and production of this technology.

While Jugalbandi is a significant step forward, there are still areas that require refinement. The probabilistic nature of these models means that errors can occur. User feedback plays a crucial role in identifying and addressing these errors, ensuring continuous improvement and optimization.

Microsoft’s Jugalbandi represents a promising advancement in the realm of generative AI, bridging the gap between government initiatives and Indian citizens by leveraging language models and innovative technologies.

Featured image credits: Microsoft

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