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K4A supported research projects in African natural language processing now available in study

K4A has been instrumental in contributing to the roadmap for African language technologies. The new study investigates the motivations, focus and challenges faced by stakeholders at the core of the NLP ecosystem in an African context.

By identifying and interviewing core stakeholders in the NLP process a number of recommendations are proposed for use by policymakers, AI researchers, and other relevant stakeholders in aid of the betterment of the development of language content and language technology.

Graphical abstract
Graphical abstract of the study published in Patterns 4, 100820, August 11, 2023

The K4A grantees have put forward the following recommendations for stakeholders working in the African language ecosystem:

  • Language acquisition of Indigenous African languages, primarily by Africans, should be better supported, and technology is a means to do this, as has been the case for many other non-African languages.
  • Basic tooling to support content creation on digital platforms, such as digital dictionaries, thesauruses, keyboards supporting diacritics where relevant, and spell checkers that recognize African names and places without error, should be prioritized.
  • Language tools and processes for content moderation and to catch and control the spread of misinformation online in Indigenous African languages should be developed and actively used.
  • Language careers and the professional opportunities available, particularly as pertains to Indigenous African languages, should be made more visible to students earlier in their education so as to generate greater interest in these fields in tertiary education.
  • AI language tools that augment human activities as opposed to tools seeking to replace them should be the intentional design choice, especially given the current dearth of tooling and data for African languages.
  • Computational linguistics components should be introduced into the educational curricula of disciplines adjacent to and working with language, e.g., linguistics and journalism, with an emphasis on the role they can play in the development of ethical and inclusive AI so as to encourage a pipeline of cross-discipline stakeholders working to build language technology.
  • Professional training opportunities to enable multilingual individuals to venture into language careers should be increased.
  • The study of contemporary use of language in Africa should be emphasized, given increasing urbanization and the multicultural nature of the continent.
  • Funding for dataset creation and annotation, both of which can be time-consuming and expensive tasks, should be increased.
  • African language policies, particularly those pertaining to education and provision of government services, should be better implemented with the aid of emerging language tools and technologies.
  • Digital licensing and funding should be made suitable to support legal cases against non-African corporations who use open African data.
  • An ‘‘ethical data curation toolkit,’’ which is informed by information scientists, data privacy experts, and machine learning bias experts, would empower dataset curators with the knowledge and skills to perform informed data curation.
  • The toolkit should be accompanied by a workshop in which practical training and discussions can take place.

NAIXUS founding partners meet at the Deep Learning Indaba 2023

The NAIXUS project (Network of Excellence on AI and the United Nations SDGs) convened a significant meeting during the Deep Learning Indaba 2023. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the progress of the project, share insights, and plan future actions to strengthen the network’s impact on advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through artificial intelligence (AI) research. K4A is a founding partner of the NAIXUS network.

Key Discussion Points:

  1. Project Overview: The meeting began with an overview of the NAIXUS project’s objectives and milestones achieved since its inception. The project aims to connect AI researchers worldwide to collaborate on SDG-related research, advocate for ethical AI practices, and contribute to policy discussions.
  2. Membership and Collaboration: Members discussed the growth of the NAIXUS network and the importance of expanding its reach to include researchers from diverse geographical regions and fields of expertise. Participants emphasized the need for cross-disciplinary collaboration to address complex sustainability challenges effectively.
  3. Research Focus Areas: The meeting highlighted the key research focus areas within the project, including healthcare, climate action, poverty reduction, and education. Members presented their ongoing research projects related to these themes and shared preliminary findings.
  4. Data Accessibility: Data accessibility emerged as a critical topic of discussion. Members discussed strategies for promoting open data sharing, building partnerships with organizations possessing relevant data sets, and ensuring data privacy and security in AI research.
  5. Policy and Advocacy: The NAIXUS project’s advocacy efforts were discussed, including engagement with policymakers and international organizations. Members shared success stories and outlined plans for future advocacy initiatives to influence AI policy in alignment with the SDGs.
  6. Ethical AI Guidelines: The meeting acknowledged the importance of ethical considerations in AI research. A working group was established to draft a set of ethical guidelines for AI researchers working on SDG-related projects, with a commitment to responsible AI development.

Outcomes and Next Steps:

  1. Continued Collaboration: Members further committed to strengthening collaboration within the NAIXUS network. Plans were made to organize webinars, workshops, and virtual conferences to facilitate knowledge exchange and foster partnerships.
  2. Research Publication: The network emphasized the significance of publishing research findings in reputable journals and conferences to contribute to the academic discourse on AI for SDGs. Members pledged to submit their work to relevant outlets.
  3. Academic Journal: Plans were discussed to finalise and launch a centralized repository accessible to researchers working on SDG projects. This resource will help address academic excellence in the field of machine learning and development.
  4. Advocacy Campaign: A dedicated advocacy campaign was proposed to engage with policymakers and raise awareness about the role of AI in advancing the SDGs. Members will work together to create policy briefs and position papers.

The NAIXUS project meeting at Deep Learning Indaba 2023 was a productive and collaborative gathering of AI researchers committed to addressing the United Nations’ SDGs through responsible and ethical AI research. The outcomes of the meeting, including continued collaboration, research publication, advocacy efforts, and data accessibility initiatives, will contribute significantly to the project’s mission and its impact on global sustainable development efforts. The project remains dedicated to fostering a global network of researchers working together to harness the power of AI for the betterment of society and the achievement of the SDGs.

Workshop at the Deep Learning Indaba 2023: “Building a Global Network of AI Researchers On AI and the United Nations SDGs”

K4A as a core member in the Network of Excellence NAIXUS; a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at bridging the gap between AI and sustainable development co-hosted a meeting and a workshop in Accra, Ghana. Both events were held as part of the Deep Learning Indaba 2023 Forum on September 8 and 9 and were co-hosted by the NAIXUS members from Africa.

The Deep Learning Indaba 2023 featured a dynamic workshop titled “Building a Global Network of AI Researchers on AI and the United Nations SDGs.” The workshop aimed to foster collaboration among AI researchers and practitioners to address the challenges posed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Held at the Indaba, this workshop brought together Indaba attendees from diverse backgrounds to discuss, share insights, and develop strategies for harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to advance the SDGs.

Key workshop Themes and Discussions:

  1. The Role of AI in SDGs: The workshop began with an exploration of the fundamental role AI can play in achieving the SDGs. Participants discussed how AI can be applied to areas such as healthcare, education, poverty alleviation, and climate change mitigation. The consensus was that AI has immense potential to drive progress in these critical areas.
  2. Challenges and Ethical Considerations: A substantial part of the workshop focused on the challenges and ethical considerations associated with AI in SDG-related projects. Concerns related to bias in AI algorithms, data privacy, and transparency were addressed. Participants stressed the importance of adhering to ethical AI principles to avoid exacerbating existing inequalities.
  3. Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: The workshop emphasized the need for cross-disciplinary collaboration. It highlighted that addressing the complex challenges of the SDGs requires expertise from various fields, including computer science, social sciences, and policy-making. Building a global network of researchers from these diverse backgrounds was recognized as essential.
  4. Data Sharing and Accessibility: Ensuring access to high-quality data emerged as a critical issue. Participants discussed the importance of open data-sharing initiatives and the development of AI models that can work with limited data resources, especially in underserved regions.
  5. Policy and Advocacy: Policymaking and advocacy for AI in SDG implementation were also key topics. Participants discussed the importance of influencing policy frameworks to ensure AI is used responsibly to advance the SDGs. Advocacy efforts and partnerships with governments and international organizations were encouraged.

The “Building a Global Network of AI Researchers on AI and the United Nations SDGs” workshop at Deep Learning Indaba 2023 provided a platform for robust discussions and concrete actions. It underscored the importance of AI in addressing the SDGs and the need for interdisciplinary collaboration, ethical considerations, and responsible policymaking. The outcomes of the workshop pave the way for a more coordinated and impactful approach to utilizing AI for sustainable development globally.

Conference of the UK UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme

On 30-31 May 2023, UK National Commission for UNESCO hosted the Conference UK UNESCO Chairs Conference to mark the yearly anniversary of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme. This event, supported by the National Commission for UNESCO, brought together over 20 participants representing some 22 UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN in the UK. This global network encourages inter-university cooperation, collaboration and information sharing. Today, the Programme involves over 700 institutions in 126 countries.

The two days of knowledge sharing inspired new ideas, partnerships, and opportunities that highlighted the value of intellectual collaboration across the network and beyond. The value of transdisciplinarity, future-oriented approaches and the need for increased North-South-South and South-South cooperation were emphasized throughout the event.

Presenting the new science of Artificial Intelligence that can put Europe on the world stage in the European Parliament

K4A is very happy to have helped co-organize an awesome half-day event at the European Parliament, titled “Beyond ChatGPT: How can Europe get in front of the pack on Generative AI Models?“, with Humane AI Net, IRCAI – International Research Center on Artificial Intelligence under the auspices of UNESCO, CLAIRE – Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe, TAILOR, AI4Media, and VISION.
A big thank you to Paul Lukowicz, Cees Snoek, Fredrik Heintz, Ioannis Kompatsiaris, Virginia Dignum, Ieva Martinkenaite, Francesca Rossi, Holger Hoos, Marko Grobelnik, Catelijne Muller, Clara Neppel, Dino Pedreschi, and Cécile Huet.

Contributing to Lillehammer’s (Norway) Lifelong Learning ICDE Conference with the workshop: “Your place in the Open Ecosystem”

KA, as a partner institution of the ENCORE + Network, approached how Open Technologies can support initiatives, projects, and business’ uptake of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in the Lifelong Learning Conference 2023 (15th-17th February) in Lillehammer (Norway), which gathered 350 participants from 32 countries.

The workshop was intended to provide participants an opportunity to imagine and recreate their work and business as Open, reflecting on OERs applicability and benefit to business, innovation, and technology in lifelong learning. There was exchange, debate, and genuine interest on the possibilities openness offer to different stakeholders.

Some of the ongoing K4A’s research for the ENCORE+ Network was also presented as relevant background for engaging participants with the activities proposed. An overview of how businesses envisioned the use and potential strategies by the use of approach was provided, in terms of services provided to learners, and technologies supporting these processes. Additionally, some of the latest AI-based solutions for OER repositories were showcased as efficient tools catering for lifelong learners’ needs.

K4A workshop at the third International Lillehammer Lifelong Learning ICDE Conference 15-17 February 2023

Open education project OE4BW Eduscope 2022

A K4A co-funded project with the University of Nova Gorica (UNG) and the UNESCO Chair of Open Technologies for OER and Open Learning at the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) organized the Open Education for a Better World Eduscope 2022, which took place from 20 to 22 September 2022 in a hybrid format in Vipava, Slovenia.

OER projects developed through the 2022 OE4BW Mentoring Programme were be presented with short pitches and received direct feedback in a panel discussion. The program was complemented by keynote presentations on the role of Open Education in Emergencies like COVID 19, Best practices in open pedagogy, Open Education and inclusive knowledge society – Leadership and Language Issues, Open Source Authoring Tools to Create Open Educational Resources, Visual Communication Technologies and Their Applications in Education. 

During the 3-day event, the participants became familiar with open education design processes, methods, and tools. They learned from OER experts and practitioners how to align open education with developmental and strategic goals. This event built on the last four successful OE4BW Eduscopes, held as live conferences in Vipava, Slovenia, and online in 2020 and 2021. The conference’s aim was to share ideas and experiences, create new opportunities for people to network and create together, promote diversity of goals, backgrounds, and cultures, and contribute to implementing the UNESCO recommendation on open educational resources while addressing various sustainable development goals.

The periodic technical report for the HumaneAI Network successfully submitted to EU reviewers

After the HumaneAI project setup phase, initiating the internal and external collaboration mechanisms the first 18 months were focused on engaging with the research questions posed in the proposal within WPs 1-5 and conducting a series of concrete high-impact activities to connect to the community. Nearly 70 micro projects spanning the large majority of the project partners have been initiated resulting in 82 project publications, incl. Nature, PNAS, Phys.Rev, Artificial Intelligence etc papers.

A major result of this work has been the updated research agenda which includes a novel conceptual framework for human-AI collaboration, a notion of shared representations centered around of narratives and the expansion of the definition of AI trustworthiness and explainability in terms of human-computer interaction (systems that humans (both individually and as a society) feel they understand and are comfortable trusting rather than systems that “only” fulfill certain hard technical specification).

Attending the annual meeting of the African AI community in Tunis

After not taking place these past two years, K4A personnel is excited to return to the Deep Learning Indaba 2022 as attendees and sponsors in Tunis, Tunisia, from the 21st to the 26th of August.

The Deep Learning Indaba is the annual meeting of the African machine learning community with the mission to Strengthen African Machine Learning.

In 2022, the Indaba managed to see 350 members of Africa’s artificial intelligence community for a week-long event of teaching, research, exchange, and debate around the state of the art in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Lacuna Fund 2022 grantees convening in Tunis

As of August 2021, Lacuna Fund has selected 29 projects for funding in the Agriculture, Natural Language Processing, and Equity & Health domains. Project teams from the first rounds of funding in Agriculture and Natural Language Processing have either completed or are nearly finished with their datasets. Those project teams were invited to attend the 2022 Lacuna Fund Grantee Convening.

K4A was granted two projects funded by the first rounds of Lacuna funding, Jade Abbott leading the “Masakhane MT: Decolonizing Scientific Writing for Africa” and Peter Nabende’s project “Named Entity Recognition and Parts of Speech datasets for African languages“. Both project results are available now, with links to the datasets listed on the Lacuna Fund website.

We were extremely happy to meet representatives from many of the project teams in person!