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Kehinde Olubotusun, who struggled to find information because he has no smartphone, and who is using an AI-powered mobile phone that works offline, walks at his house in Lagos, Nigeria, on Feb. 23.Seun Sanni/Reuters

Visually-impaired Nigerian Kehinde Olutubosun is a geography and animal enthusiast who struggled to find information because he has no smartphone. But that is changing, thanks to an Artificial Intelligence-powered mobile phone that works offline.

The service, launched by Canada-based Viamo in Nigeria last month, allows anyone – even in the middle of nowhere without the internet – to access AI technology.

Viamo uses a traditional handset to tap into local mobile phone networks to send commands or requests for information through SMS or voice calls.

It works like other AI chatbots and can be used by illiterate persons since it can be prompted by voice. It is also cheaper.

“For people who are not that financially buoyant, they still have this opportunity to use even as little as 10 naira to ask lots of questions that will actually benefit them, I am so happy,” said Olutubosun.

Viamo said the device was targeted at the world’s poorest and remotest communities and is being expanded to Pakistan, India and Tanzania after being first launched in Zambia.

Viamo is supported by development agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom, among others. UNICEF has partnered with Viamo to provide information on HIV, tropical diseases, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene.

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