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Karya: Indian Startup Making AI Better and Fairer

AI is everywhere, right? From your phone’s assistant to the ads on your social media feeds. The thing is, most AI tech works best with languages that have lots of online data, like English. But what about less common languages that don’t have much online content? They get left behind. And it’s often low-paid workers from poorer countries who do the grunt work to help improve these AI systems. But an Indian startup called Karya is shaking things up. They want to make AI fairer and help lift people out of poverty at the same time.

Rural woman using smartphone, India.

Making AI Work for Everyone

Karya is a non-profit company that started in 2021. They’re based in Bengaluru, India, and they want to make tech, especially AI, available to everyone. One of the languages they’re working on is Kannada. It’s spoken by around 60 million people in India, but it doesn’t have a big digital footprint. This makes it hard to build AI models that can understand and use it.

So Karya had an idea. They hired people from rural India to create datasets in their own languages. This way, they’re helping AI to get better at understanding these languages and they’re giving local communities control over their own languages.

Fair Pay and Respect for Workers

Most companies doing this kind of work offer tiny wages and then sell the data they get for big bucks. But Karya does things differently. They cover their running costs and then use most of their earnings to help poor people in rural India. They also make sure the workers get a cut when the data they helped create gets sold. This gives the workers a better income and shows them the difference their work makes in the world of AI.

Portrait of Pylon construction workers, India.

More Than Just a Job

Karya offers short-term jobs, so people can make some money and then move on to other things. They also work in different areas, so more people get a chance to benefit. One of their projects is collecting voice data to help build an AI app about tuberculosis (TB). TB is a curable disease that still kills loads of people in India every year. With this app, people who can’t read can still get important info about TB.

Partnering Up for Bigger Impact

Karya works with big names like Microsoft, MIT, and Stanford to make AI better for everyone. They’re creating voice datasets in a bunch of Indian languages. The goal is to make a chatbot that can give people in rural India info about health, farming, cleanliness, banking, and jobs. This way, no matter what language you speak, you can still make the most of what AI has to offer.

Indian Engineer worker foreman using telephone calling communication and technology

Giving Back and Making a Difference

Karya’s CEO, Manu Chopra, grew up in a poor neighborhood in Delhi. He got where he is today thanks to help from nonprofits, schools, and the government. Now he’s giving back, making sure that the voices of marginalized people are heard and valued in the world of AI.

As Karya works to make AI fairer and fight poverty, they’re setting a great example for others to follow. They show that you can make money without forgetting about social responsibility. With companies like Karya in the lead, a future where AI benefits everyone, no matter what language they speak, seems a whole lot closer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is Karya?

Karya is a nonprofit AI data company based in Bengaluru, India. Their mission is to democratize technology, particularly AI, by focusing on languages that don’t have a big presence online. They also aim to offer fair wages and conditions for their workers.

2. How is Karya helping marginalized languages?

Karya is helping marginalized languages by hiring people from rural India to create and refine datasets in their mother tongues. This data is used to improve AI’s ability to understand and engage with these languages.

3. How does Karya ensure fair wages and conditions for its workers?

Unlike many data companies, Karya shares its earnings with the workers who helped create the data. When data is resold, the workers get a share of the proceeds, on top of their regular wages. This model offers financial support to workers and gives them a sense of the value of their work.

4. What is Karya’s work model?

Karya provides short-term job opportunities, making it clear that the work is supplementary and not a permanent job. This way, workers can earn an income boost while also pursuing other interests and needs.

5. Can you give an example of Karya’s project?

One of Karya’s projects involves collecting voice data in different dialects of Kannada. The aim is to train an AI model that can provide reliable information about tuberculosis through an app, a disease that significantly impacts rural India.

6. Who are Karya’s partners?

Karya collaborates with high-profile clients such as Microsoft, MIT, and Stanford. They are collectively working towards developing an AI chatbot that can provide vital information to rural Indians about a range of topics.

7. Who is the CEO of Karya?

Karya’s CEO is Manu Chopra. He grew up in a poor neighborhood in Delhi and received help from nonprofits, schools, and the government to get where he is today. Now, he’s using Karya to pay it forward.

Sources TIME