Revolutionizing Technology: Making African Languages Accessible in AI and Tech
Ife Adebara is leading the charge to make technology more accessible by ensuring that African languages are integrated into the technology people use.
Adebara, a programmer and scholar at the University of British Columbia’s linguistics department, warns that minority language speakers often have to discard their native language to access technology in languages like English, leading to long-term language endangerment.
Her project, Afrocentric Natural Language Processing, aims to create tools and programs in African languages like Swahili and Zulu, making technology inclusive for all.
In an interview with CBC’s Ali Pitargue, Adebara emphasized the importance of developing technology in indigenous languages. She is currently working on 517 languages spoken in 50 African countries and aims to expand the list even further. The challenge lies in the fact that these languages are considered low-resource, lacking adequate data for AI models.
Adebara stresses that it’s crucial not to exclude African languages from the development of technology, as this would mean excluding more than one billion people from global conversations. Additionally, African languages possess unique grammatical features that must be preserved in language technology to ensure versatility.
Ultimately, Adebara hopes that her project will bring various technologies to the average African individual, fostering long-term effects on education and access to essential information.
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