Albania Announces National Voice Assistant
Albania is developing a voice assistant to provide services to citizens, the latest in the slowly growing number of national and municipal voice assistants around the world. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced that development had begun and would be finished within a year.
The prime minister described the upcoming voice assistant as sharing similarities with Apple’s Siri voice assistant and said it will be part of a phone system. The idea is that citizens looking for information and documents related to citizen services will be able to ask the voice assistant rather than having to go to an office or call a helpline.
“We have started another project to have a voice assistant right here (on the phone) within the next year, such as Siri, for example, as you know,” Rama said. “This will be the digital assistant of every citizen who, in order to be interested in receiving an answer for a certain service, how the service is received, will have the voice assistant here on the phone and will ask him for answers from the whole range related to services with documents.”
The fact that it will speak Albanian is notable since it’s not one of the languages in the most common voice assistant libraries. The only other Albanian-speaking voice assistant around is the one produced by Making Life Simple (MLS), which offers voice AI fluent in Greek, Serbian, Albanian, and Bulgarian. There’s also the Icelandic government-supported Embla voice assistant built by startup Miðeind, which is unique in speaking the island nation’s tongue.
Augmenting government services with voice AI is becoming a popular idea as the technology improves, hastened by the pandemic and the forced changes in government service provisions. The biggest example is likely the Indian government’s new Umang (Unified Mobile Application for New-Age Governance) service, which relies on conversational AI startup Senseforth to answer questions and provide government services in both voice assistant and chatbot form. There’s also Estonia’s upcoming Bürokratt AI virtual assistant, which will help Estonians access benefits and complete tasks through voice conversations. Meanwhile, Morocco has a new virtual assistant to help citizens pay their taxes, and the city of Dubai debuted the ‘Fares’ AI as a voice assistant on the city’s hotline or as a chatbot through Dubai’s official WhatsApp number.