Jugalbandi chatbot was introduced to villagers in Biwan, Haryana in April 2023
Microsoft on Tuesday announced Jugalbandi, a new India-specific generative AI-driven chatbot for mobile devices. The multilingual chatbot is accessible via the popular messaging platform WhatsApp to help users get easy access to information about government schemes.
Jugalbandi refers to a duet between two musicians where they create something new by riffing off each other. The Jugalbandi chatbot has been designed to serve rural areas of the country and can understand multiple languages, whether spoken or typed. Microsoft said that the duet here is the conversation between the chatbot and the user.
IIT Madras’ open-source language AI centre and a government-backed initiative, AI4Bharat, is a collaborator on the Jugalbandi chatbot. It uses language models from AI4Bharat in addition to GPT models via Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service.
The tech major said that the language of government, business, and public life in India is English, but it is spoken by just 11 per cent of the 1.4 billion population. Even when the government documents are in Hindi, it can be understood by 57 per cent of Indians, leaving a “vast number of the population unable to access governemnt programs because of language barriers”. The Jugalbandi chatbot can retrieve information on relevant programs and relay them back in the local language of the user.
“We saw this Jugalbandi as a kind of ‘chatbot plus plus’ because it’s like a personalised agent,” Abhigyan Raman, a project officer at AI4Bharat, said. “It understands your exact problem in your language and then tries to deliver the right information reliably and cheaply, even if that exists in some other language in a database somewhere.”
Jugalbandi was introduced to villagers in Biwan, Haryana in April 2023 and has been expanded to cover 10 of India’s 22 official languages and 171 of a total of approximately 20,000 government programs.
“India has myriad government schemes and welfare programs, each with its own criteria and requirements. Official websites can be hard to navigate – or impossible if you can’t read or write or don’t know English,” Microsoft said in a blog post. “Getting precise answers early means fewer trips to the government service centers in each village for help and fewer trips home to retrieve missing documents.”
When a villager sends an audio message to the Jugalbandi bot on WhatsApp, it is transcribed to text using the AI4Bharat speech recognition model. It is then translated to English by the Bhashini translation model trained by AI4Bharat after which the prompt is sent to the Azure OpenAI Service’s model that retrieves the information on the relevant government scheme. The answer is translated to Hindi and then the AI4Bharat text-to-speech model synthesises it and sends it back to the user on WhatsApp.