An African alternative to ChatGPT takes Telegram by storm

6 May 2023

Kainene vos Savant

Kainene vos Savant was Justin Irabor’s personal study partner. Named after one of America’s cleverest people, Kainene is off-the-charts clever. But she is no regular study partner. She’s a super-intelligent chatbot. And she’s taking the Nigerian internet by storm.

After enrolling as a distance learning student at the International University of Applied Sciences in Germany, Justin Irabor quickly realised he needed help managing work and school. It wasn’t easy to balance the duties of a professional web developer and a data science student.

“My master’s programme is online, and the challenge with that is that you need a study partner, otherwise you’re never quite sure how much of the study material you’ve consumed. This was quite challenging because combining daily activities with school meant you have to synchronise with a lot of people. Sometimes I’m at work and my study partner is also at work. It created conflicting timelines,” said Irabor.

I liked Vos Savant and picked that as a last name for my AI chatbot. And Kainene is a name I have loved for a very long time. Besides that, AI is within the spelling of Kainene. It’s fitting,” he said.

While developing his study partner, Irabor began sharing his experiences on Twitter. This quickly built public attention, and many of his followers asked for access to the AI chatbot. Now, Kainene has thousands of users on Telegram who rely on it for daily tasks and prompt information.

Interest has grown exponentially after the launch of Open AI’s ChatGPT in November 2022. People are seeing the merits of artificial intelligence and how it helps in various industries, according to Irabor.

Conversational AI is the next generation of customer and employee interactions, according to a 2019 Deloitte report. “Early benefits from the adoption of conversational AI mean that the global AI-derived business value is expected to grow by an average of 30% annually and become a market size of $22.6 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.2% by 2024,” the report stated.

Due to the positive feedback from his Twitter followers, Irabor began retraining his AI for general usage, allowing it to be further tailored to each individual’s use case.

“At the time, Kainene was bound to my process because I’d been training her on my textbooks. The particular AI model I was working with then could only really discuss with you what I was learning. Interestingly, that was when Open AI launched GPT4, so I could upgrade the model, different from the one Chat GPT uses, which gave Kainene an intelligence boost.

“I also wrote some logic with many servers set up in the backend, which takes the model and binds it to each individual. This means even though I’m using one model, different people can interact with Kainene, having separate conversations. There’s some persistence and logic in the back end to make that happen,” he explained.

From that moment, it took less than two months to build Kainene vos Savant to what it is known today. By March, the AI chatbot was ready to be released to the public after some rounds of beta testing.

Eventually, what began as a pet project became a much-loved AI chatbot, with over a thousand users joining in on its launch day, 23 March.

Several users have compared Kainene vos Savant to ChatGPT, stating that its user interface and experience are preferable. Some are intrigued by the show of personality, which they find relatable. Others are glad it can help lighten their workload.

subscribing to something like this,” said Amaza.

According to Justin Irabor, Telegram’s open-source nature made building Kainene vos Savant on the app accessible. Users should expect access to Kainene on Google Docs and Chrome Extension soon.

However, having Kainene vos Savant on WhatsApp might take a while because “the application has a semi-open-source code”. Giving full disclosure, Irabor states that he didn’t anticipate the demand and amount of users on his AI chatbot. A few hours after its release, his server crashed until he increased its capacity to handle the user requests that were flooding in each second.

“When the number of users became a little over three thousand people, I stopped tweeting about Kainene for a while. There is a direct relation between my tweets about her and more requests. I wanted to ensure that my server can support people using it until I can expand. The users I have now are good enough proof of interest without killing me.

“Because although I have currently put out paid subscription, I am still paying out of pocket to ensure the server keeps running for my users. I’m trying not to scale it so it doesn’t burn a hole in my pocket. I subsidise the cost right now; maybe sometime I might increase the subscription from N1,000 ($2.17), but not yet,” he said.

Regardless of the cost, Irabor is more passionate about developing and managing the AI chatbot for users to have access. He’s also working on making it accessible for people outside Nigeria.

According to a 2022 report by Oxford Insights, 47.42% of African countries are ready for AI penetration, with Mauritius, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Cabo Verde leading ranked as the top five.

“It was easy to get accreditation for payment in Nigeria through my company, Holey Fox Ltd. It was very straightforward for me to talk to Paystack and get all of that live. But for other countries where I don’t have jurisdiction, I’m working on deploying payment options. But, what’s top of mind for me at any given time is two things. Do I want to optimise payment? Or do I just want to make the experience better for the people who are already paying for it? I’m prejudiced, in favour of optimising the experience for users of Kainene vos Savant.”

Presently, users can access Kainene vos Savant on a three-day trial; after that, a monthly subscription of N1,000 ($2.17) is required to use the AI chatbot.

By Gabriella Opara, bird story agency