Communicating Seamlessly with Bhashini

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India is a linguistically diverse country with 121 major languages and 18 written scripts. This diversity creates bottlenecks in last-mile service delivery for a large part of the population. These include difficulty in interpretation and communication, delay in document translations and limited accessibility of social welfare schemes.

Bhashini is an innovation-augmenting digital public platform which aims to address these challenges. It has three fundamental components: technology, regulations and ecosystem. Technology consists of multiple layers and APIs that form the building blocks of the platform. The datasets and models are mainly regulated and governed under the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), and the ecosystem covers a diverse set of stakeholders, ranging from central ministries to citizens. The building blocks and development of the platform have encouraged the creation of reference applications like Anuvaad, an open-source document translation and digitisation platform, and marketplace applications like Jugalbandi that powers conversational AI solutions across domains.

Bhashini has the potential to increase awareness and accessibility for the poor and vulnerable population across sectors like education, health, financial inclusion and livelihoods. It will enable students to access online classes, digitised print material and various applications to aid their learning process, and also assist workers, especially migrant workers, in navigating job portals, obtaining skills and information. It will also expand the scope of healthtech, and make administrative and logistical tasks more efficient. The diverse language catering will also enable awareness and easy adoption of various schemes and financial initiatives among marginalised sections.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) steers the activities of Bhashini and facilitates its smooth implementation. Digital India Bhashini Division, under the Digital India Corporation (created by MeitY), works to develop and maintain a public digital platform that can create and nurture an ecosystem. It also acts as a nodal agency for the Bhashini ecosystem.

AI4Bharat–a collaborative venture among the stakeholders of Bhashini–creates open datasets and models that enable several language-based digital capabilities. These capabilities and tools can further be used to develop applications and use cases.

A multi-stakeholder engagement is needed to support the generation of multiple use cases for Bhashini. Philanthropic organisations, technology players and non-profits ecosystem are the primary drivers of emerging DPGs, including Bhashini. Philanthropy should strengthen infrastructure and encourage innovation in the development of use cases. Technology players should develop and integrate context-specific solutions built using the Bhashini architecture. Further, nonprofits should assess requirements, enable collaboration and assist in deployment of new technologies to achieve social impact.

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Authors: Sohini Dutta, Abhishek Modi, Akshata Jain and Abheya Arora

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