UMANG (Unified Mobile Application for New-Age Governance) is the app that provides citizens of India with a single point of access to over 1,200 major government services. It covers everything from education, COVID-19 vaccinations, public transport, and employment advice to passport applications, utilities, cybercrime reporting, and more.
UMANG was launched in 2017 and developed by two departments of the Government of India – the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the National e-Governance Division (NeGD) –to drive the country to mobile governance.
However, while the app was well received by those in the population that are technology-literate, it was seen as complex and hard to navigate by those who are not so digitally savvy and for those whose language wasn’t supported by the app.
“It is unfortunate that many government programs see lackluster adoption because people at the grassroots level are unable to access them or understand their benefits. This is why Voice AI is a great equalizer. And UMANG is a great example of this, where people can just speak with the AI Conversational Assistant and instantly access information,” shared Krishna Kadiri, chief innovation officer & co-founder, Senseforth.ai.
The government realized that citizens wouldn’t be able to make the most of this incredible service and were struggling to access critical information when they needed it most.
UMANG had to be much more. They wanted to eliminate technology and language barriers and create a more inclusive solution – and that could boost the adoption of key government programs and initiatives in the long term.
To achieve this, the Government of India asked conversational AI firm Senseforth.ai to help it create a voice-enabled interface, so citizens could simply speak their questions into the app and get the desired results.
“India is perhaps one of the most diverse countries in the world, and this is reflected in how we speak. Building a voice-enabled AI Assistant that can handle eight regional languages and scores of dialects is quite challenging,” stated Krishna Kadiri, chief innovation officer & co-founder, Senseforth.ai.
This challenge is made more complex, particularly given the major objective of reaching rural citizens who can be isolated from digital services.
“Governments around the world are going on the digitalization journey, and potentially a huge part of the dreams of people could be left out if they don’t access the citizen services that are provided on digital platforms,” said Shridhar Marri, co-founder, and chief executive of Senseforth.ai, in an interview with The Economic Times.
“Conversational AI is one way to address this by using local language input through voice or text, and then providing the same level of service without having to use a mobile app or go to a website.”
Millions of people interacted with the virtual assistant within the first weeks of its launch
Using its patented Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology and decades of experience building very large and complex conversational AI solutions for businesses like HDFC Bank, Nestle, and Prudential Financial, Senseforth.ai was able to meet the brief.
After a comprehensive knowledge-gathering exercise, which involved determining citizens’ preferred channels and the most common languages spoken, Senseforth.ai developed an AI virtual assistant for the top 15 services that citizens used most. This was done with the company’s proprietary conversational AI platform, which handles millions of conversations daily with an accuracy of over 96%. Pre-built and battle-tested AI models for hundreds of use cases are baked into the conversational AI platform, helping ensure a fast implementation.
The pilot launch went live in 2022 in both English and Hindi, with the AI Citizen assistant expected to distinguish between 10 major Indian languages and many more local dialects in the following months. Millions of people interacted with the virtual assistant within the first weeks of its launch, asking over one million questions, either spoken or by text.
However, this is just the start. Senseforth.ai is working closely with government officials to analyze feedback, finetune working on the AI Citizen Assistant, and eventually roll it to many more UMANG services. As a result, citizens in even the most rural areas of India who have traditionally felt disconnected from technology will have access to key government programs and initiatives.
“We will be building a few services in the next few months and eventually cover the entire spectrum of thousands of services,” said Marri, in an interview with Mint. “All of them will be handled by us to create conversational AI services.”