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What is ‘Bhashini’, the AI-powered tool that translated PM Narendra Modi’s speech to Tamil?

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What is ‘Bhashini’, the AI-powered tool that translated PM Narendra Modi’s speech to Tamil?

‘Bhashini’, an AI-powered local language translation system, was used to translate PM Narendra Modi’s speech into Tamil in real-time at the cultural festival Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi on Sunday. Developed by the government, it enables to bridge language barriers

FP Explainers December 18, 2023 14:03:35 IST What is ‘Bhashini’, the AI-powered tool that translated PM Narendra Modi’s speech to Tamil?

PM Narendra Modi speaks during the Kashi Tamil Sangamam 2.0 at Namo Ghat in Varanasi on 17 December. PTI

A real-time artificial intelligence-based tool, ‘Bhashini’, translated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech into Tamil from Hindi at the cultural festival Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi on Sunday (17 December). He asked the audience members to put on their earphones if they wanted a live translation of his speech in Tamil.

Dubbing the technology a “new beginning”, Modi told the gathering, “Today, the use of new technology has taken place here through Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is a new beginning and hopefully, it makes it easier for me to reach you”.

Reacting to the PM using Bhashini for translation, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman called it an “exciting step”.

PM Modi addressed the audience during the inauguration of the second edition of the Kashi Tamil Sangamam at Namo Ghat in Varanasi. The event, which is being held from 17 to 30 December, will witness the participation of 1,400 dignitaries, including students, artisans, and business professionals from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

What is ‘Bhashini’ that translated PM Modi’s speech? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Bhashini?

Developed by the government, Bhashini is an AI-powered local language translation system that makes it easier for people to converse in different Indian languages.

The tool allows people to communicate in their native language with the aim to break language barriers. It can be accessed through specific Android and iOS apps.

During the Digital India Week in Gujarat last year, PM Modi unveiled the ‘Digital India Bhashini’, which intends to augment internet accessibility and digital services in Indian languages, including voice-based functions. It also aims to promote content creation in local languages, reported Hindustan Times (HT).

“Bhashini shall act as an orchestrator to unify and align a large diverse network across government, industry, academia, research groups and start-ups to bring all their contributions into an open repository,” according to the Bhasini website.

The Union government has laid out four tracks defining Bhashini’s roadmap: Foundation, Contribution, Innovation, and Grand Challenge.

The platform also has a separate ‘Bhasha Daan’ section, which enables individuals to contribute to various crowdsourcing initiatives.

What’s Bhasha Daan?

Under Bhasha Daan, the government plans to gather language inputs across myriad local languages, noted HT.

There are several categories within Bhasha Daan: Suno India, Likho India, Bolo India and Dekho India.

Suno India allows people to type audio content or validate text transcribed by others.

Under Bolo India, individuals can record sentences in their voices as well as validate the audio recorded by other people.

Under Likho India, people can translate the provided text into their local language and validate translations submitted by others.

In Dekho India, individuals can contribute by typing the visible text or labelling images. They can also validate the images labelled by others.

Currently, the open repository has 1,495 contributions in Suno India, 1,306 in Bolo India, 937 in Likho India and 576 in Dekho India.

Why is Bhashini significant?

With Bhashini, the government intends to enrich and develop Indian languages and make digital content in native tongues easily accessible.

Such an initiative assumes significance in India where over 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken as mother tongues, according to the 2011 census. As many as 121 languages are spoken by 10,000 or more people in India – a total of 121 crore population.

However, most of the content available on the web is in English. The Central government wants to bridge the language barrier and encourage developers to provide digital services in local languages, as per Times of India (TOI). 

Union finance minister Sitharaman had announced the National Language Translation Mission (NLTM) in the 2021-22 budget. The initiative was introduced following a survey that found that 53 per cent of Indians who do not use the Internet will access the web if the content was available in their native language, reported TOI.

Bhashini is the government’s answer to promote digital content in local languages. As per the newspaper, this national digital public platform will help form a “knowledge-based society where information is freely and readily available”.

With inputs from agencies

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