What is it?
To say the world is interested in generative artificial intelligence like ChatGPT would be something of an understatement. Right now, it is an obsession.
However, the text models as well as images are trained on content produced largely in the Western world, and the seasonal biases of the Northern Hemisphere dominate. Little wonder that, across the African continent, the platforms, services and possibilities that are emerging around the technology and its possibilities seem distant and almost irrelevant.
It is a delight, then, to discover a significant breakthrough in its use emerging from South Africa. Bertha Kgokong, a Johannesburg-based self-taught developer, founded a company called Tati and built MobileGPT, as an AI assistant for WhatsApp users. She says it is aimed at anyone across the globe who wants to use ChaptGPT and other generative AI platforms on their handsets.
I contacted MobileGPT via WhatsApp, and it immediately offered me a menu with a wide range of options, from having a normal conversation with ChatGPT and generating an AI image using Stable Diffusion, to generating a formal document like a lawyer’s letter or conducting live research via LiveData.
Producing useable AI images proved challenging. Anyone who has used DALL-E, an image generator from ChatGPT creator OpenAI, will know that initial results from such tools can be underwhelming. I fine-tuned the MobileGPT “prompt” – the question or requirement one types into an AI platform – several times, until I was told I had run out of the quota of three images allowed in the free version.
It turned out that MobileGPT offers a free trial only for 24 hours, after which it requires a $20 monthly subscription fee. That’s not expensive – it’s the same cost as the Pro version of ChapGPT, but adds multiple services on top of the chatbot. However, it is not for the casual user who may use it only a couple of times a month.
The chat option works as well as ChatpGPT, since one is not using WhatsApp capabilities, but using messaging as an interface to ChatpGPT.
I asked it to write a news article about itself, and it told me:
“MobileGPT, a revolutionary new AI assistant for WhatsApp users, has just been launched, promising to provide unparalleled support and assistance to users from around the world.
“This new assistant is programmed to detect the language of each individual user and respond accordingly, making communication clear and effortless. Its knowledge of a wide range of topics makes MobileGPT a valuable resource for anyone who could use a little extra help.
“MobileGPT provides casual, friendly replies with emojis, making its interactions with users welcoming and relaxed. It is always ready to assist users with any task or answer any questions they may have. While MobileGPT has limitations like any AI, it will always direct users to the resources or suggest alternative solutions to meet their needs.
“Overall, MobileGPT is already making significant waves in the WhatsApp community, and it is easy to see why. Its ease of use and expansive knowledge make it an invaluable resource for users from all over the world.”
Of course, a human could have written that with more nuance and creativity, but it does the basic work, much as users have experienced with ChatGPT itself. It’s not there to do the job for you, but to provide the basic framework or information from which you can build your own work.
Its biggest strength may well turn out to be the access it gives to an AI-powered document generator that produces industry-standard documents, like invoices, letters and CVs.
What does it cost?
Free trial for first 24 hours, with limits on material produced. Thereafter, $20 a month. Add the number +27 76 734 6284, and it offers an initial prompt to request a menu. If nothing appears, type in “Hi MobileGPT”, and the conversation begins. In a browser, visit mobile-gpt.io for more information.
Click here to add it automatically: https://wa.me/message/TRQTFU2TZDBGP1
Why does it matter?
Bertha Kgokong, founder of MobileGPT, puts it this way: “People focus on the idea of jobs that might be lost due to new technologies, and forget the gains to society that technology brings. Maybe industrialisation caused labourers to lose some jobs, but it created engineers, consultants and other more sophisticated jobs in line with the tech improvements.
“The same will happen here. Instead of hiring a blog writer, you will now hire a prompt engineer. Yes, there are new jobs that will be created by AI, like AI prompt engineers, AI Integration Consultants, AI Ethics Officers, AI Content Strategists …”
What are the biggest negatives?
- The $20 monthly cost will be a barrier to many, translating as it does to more than R360 per month. Not for the casual user.
- Image prompts require extensive fine-tuning and, unlike web-based versions, do not provide multiple options from which to choose after each request.
- The free trial is limited to 24 hours.
What are the biggest positives?
- The power of ChatGPT in one of the most user-friendly apps most of us use.
- Extensive capabilities across text, documents and images.
- $20 a month may sound like a lot, but it is a bargain for professionals and those who become prompt-savvy.
* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee