Alain Capo-Chichi is the founder of Ivory Coast’s first android phone known as “Open G”. The smartphone is designed to improve accessibility with voice commands in local languages for users who can’t read and write and could be key to preserving Africa’s numerous languages.
He was inspired to make the phone to help people like his parents, who are illiterate, use features like transferring money and sending messages by simply speaking to the phone in their native language.
“In Africa, the problem we have… is that reading and writing is not accessible to everyone,” he told Reuters. “People can use their smartphones much more easily by simply speaking to them.”
The phone, which went on sale recently, can understand commands and respond in 16 of Ivory Coast’s approximately 60 spoken languages, including Dioula, Senoufo and Bété, according to Reuters.
According to Capo-Chichi, his goal is to get the phone to eventually support at least 1000 African languages through a collaborative system of data collection. Thus far, over 3,000 volunteers in 54 African countries have collaborated on the program.
Capo-Chichi’s phone adds to the growing list of mobile phones made in Africa by Africans. Afrione, Imose Mobile, Pliris Mobile, and Solo Phone are made in Nigeria; SICO Technology is made in Egypt while Onyx Connect and Mint are made in South Africa.
Capo-Chichi ventured into entrepreneurship in 1998 when he founded Groupe CERCO when he was only 20 years old. Groupe CERCO has since grown and it is now available in Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Mali, France and China.
In addition, he is an academic and has a Ph.D. in Information and Communication Sciences from the University of Paris 8 in France. What is more, he is also an Assistant Professor in Computer Engineering at the University of Paris 8 and an Associate Member of the UNESCO Chair in ICTs at the University of Bordeaux.