Zimbabwean startup Bhala has launched a mobile virtual keyboard that uses machine learning and state-of-the-art deep learning models to improve the experience of writing in African languages.
Bhala that started its service delivery in January 2021 supports word auto-complete, spellcheck, and word prediction in ChiShona, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, KiSwahili, Sepedi, Sesotho, and SiSwati, with more just around the corner.
Njabulo Sandawana the Director of Operation at Bhala claims it has more exact autocorrect and prediction than any equivalent application available including Google’s Gboard and Microsoft’s SwiftKey.
He added that African has had to endure innovations not intended for them but Bhala is focused on giving innovation that empowers clients to convey viably, effectively, and improves their client cell phone insight.
“Too often Africans have to tolerate technology not designed for them or their needs. Bhala is different. It’s built by Africans, for Africans, and for African needs, while respecting privacy and ethical considerations through research-based methods,” he said.
“We are committed to providing technology that enables users to communicate effectively, efficiently, and improves their user mobile device experience,” said Sandawana.
The self-funded platform currently has more than 10,000 downloads and is looking to extend its services beyond Zimbabwe to cover the entire continent.
“Since the release of our beta we have been focused on the Zimbabwean market, but we are extending to include more countries. The goal is to bring Bhala’s language technology to the entire continent,” said Sandawana.
“Our goal is to grow as fast as possible. We are focused on onboarding as many users as possible and on constantly improving our technology for the benefit of our users” said Sandawana.