Ivorian tech inventor wins World Literacy Award


An Ivorian technology entrepreneur and smartphone designer, Alain Capo has won the World Literacy Award 2023. He invented a smartphone that lets people communicate in at least 16 of the languages spoken in Ivory Coast.

The award “recognizes individuals and organizations annually for their outstanding endeavours that promote literacy learning,” according to the website for the prize.

Mr Capo expressed his gratitude during the ceremony at Oxford University in the United Kingdom; “It’s an amazing honour to receive this award and the global acknowledgment of the work in literacy as we increase access to education and literacy for all.”

He also spoke about what inspires him: “I’ve seen, first-hand, the inequalities of education worldwide, and it inspired me to step up and make a difference.”

Alain Capo-Chichi is originally from Benin but settled in Ivory Coast. He is the first entrepreneur to set up a computer assembly plant in West Africa. Alain called his phone the “Open G” smartphone, which had already hit the market last month and sold thousands of units.

Alain Capo-Chichi said he wanted to create the phone to help people like his parents, who are illiterate and can’t type and read messages like the younger ones, use features like transferring money and sending messages. Many Africans like our parents and aunties are not conversant with the English Language and typing it is as difficult as speaking it.

He said: “In Africa, the problem we have… is that reading, and writing is not accessible to everyone. What we’ve done is try to help our parents who have difficulty with their smartphones… But why not make it easier by giving priority to commands since speech is three times faster than writing. People can use their smartphones much more easily by simply speaking to them.”

Alain told news reporters that he created the phone to solve this problem and ease the lives of the illiterate and ageing population in Ivory Coast. The Open G smartphone has voice accessibility settings that can help blind, cognitively, and physically disabled people interact more seamlessly with the world around them without the help of other people. The Open G smartphone has a similar voice command interface to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

Alain said to CGTN: “We don’t need to alphabetize people. We don’t need to teach them to read and write. We just need to take them as they are and insert them into economic life. From now on I simply speak to send money to someone, I simply speak and I manage my economic activity, I simply speak, and I can know. Before, I needed to read and write in order to know. For a state like Côte d’Ivoire, we need the involvement of all its sons to be able to manage the country.”

Open G manufacturing plant is in Grand Bassam, East of Abidjan, capital of Ivory Coast. The smartphone is also available in Benin, Burkina Faso, and DRC. The price varies from $45 to $90.

Alain plans to incorporate over 1,00 local languages in Africa into the voice command and language sect of his smartphone. “Beyond the fifty languages we have done which includes sixteen Ivorian languages, we want to reach one thousand African languages. We are happy there are already almost two thousand speakers who have registered. We are working with them today,” he said.

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