Nigerian Language Advocates Seek Inclusion of African Languages in Tech Devices

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Voice-activated virtual assistant technologies, such as Siri and Alexa, are becoming increasingly common around the world, but in Africa, with its many languages, most people are at a digital disadvantage. To address the problem, some African researchers are creating translation tools to recognize and promote indigenous languages, such as Yoruba. 

Yoruba language teacher Oluwafemi Awosanya resumes a day’s classes with his students. He has been teaching the language for 10 years, but says he often struggles to migrate his class modules to an online students’ blogsite he created because there is no speech recognition technology for Yoruba.  

“Yoruba language is a language that has to do with signs at the top, so I need to go (the) extra mile. When typing my notes, I have to first type on Microsoft Word and even when I type on Microsoft Word it gives me best highlighting, like your words are not correct,” Awosanya said.

Awosanya spends several hours manually editing and correcting his notes before uploading them to his blog. 

He says despite technological advances in Africa, languages like Yoruba, one of the most commonly spoken in Nigeria, remain neglected, affecting his students.  

“It limits knowledge. There are things you wish you want to educate the children on, things you want to exhibit in the classes…” Awosanya said.

More than 2,000 distinct languages are spoken in Africa. Researchers say two-thirds of the native speakers miss out on emerging technologies due to language limitations in the tech world. 

Nigerian writer and language advocate Kola Tubosun says the issue threatens Africa’s technological future. He has since been trying to promote inclusivity for his native Yoruba tongue. 

He created an online Yoruba dictionary as well as a text-to-speech machine that translates English to Yoruba. He said the initiative was partly inspired by his grandfather, who could not read or write in English. 

“If a language doesn’t exist in the technology space, it is almost as if it doesn’t exist at all. That is the way the world is structured today and in that you spend all your time online every day and the only language you encounter is English, Spanish or Mandarin or whatever else, then it tends to define the way you interact with the world. And over time you tend to lose either the interest in your own language or your competence [competency in that language],” Tubosun said. 

Tubosun, who advocates for including African languages in technology, says the tech giants are starting to pay attention even though the gap remains very wide.    

“There are lots of obstacles. Some languages are not written down at all; some don’t have scripts. Some have scripts but don’t have so many people using the languages or writing them in education or using them in daily conversations,” Tubosun said. 

Language experts say it will take a long time before African languages are widely adopted in voice-driven technology.    

In the meantime, researchers like Tubosun and Awosanya will be working to adapt the Yoruba language for technology users.  

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Nigerian Language Advocates Call for Including African Languages in High Tech Devices

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Новини, Технології

Voice activated virtual assistant technologies, such as Siri and Alexa, are becoming increasingly common around the world but in Africa, with its many languages, most people are at a digital disadvantage.  To address the problem, some African researchers are creating translation tools to recognize and promote indigenous languages, such as Yoruba. Timothy Obiezu in Abuja has details.

Camera: Emeka Gibson  

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Головне на ранок: Росія анонсує чергові навчання, Джонсон застерігає Путіна від «кровопролиття»

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Розслідувальна група Conflict Intelligence Team виявила відео, яке може свідчити про перекидання російських десантників до кордону з Україною

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Прем’єр-міністр Хорватії попросив вибачення в українців через заяву президента

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25 січня президент Хорватії Зоран Міланович зробив низку критичних заяв щодо України

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У МЗС відповіли на заяви президента Хорватії: «ретранслюють наративи російської пропаганди»

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Зоран Міланович, зокрема, заявив, що «Україні не місце в НАТО», назвав Україну однією з найкорумпованіших країн, а події Майдану назвав «переворотом»

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До кінця січня в Україні сформують 13 бригад сил тероборони – Мотузяник

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В Україні з 1 січня вступили в дію положення закону «Про основи національного спротиву», ухваленого торік

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Delay in Creating New US Cybersecurity Board Prompts Concern

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It’s a key part of President Joe Biden’s plans to fight major ransomware attacks and digital espionage campaigns: creating a board of experts that would investigate major incidents to see what went wrong and try to prevent the problems from happening again — much like a transportation safety board does with plane crashes.

But eight months after Biden signed an executive order creating the Cyber Safety Review Board it still hasn’t been set up. That means critical tasks haven’t been completed, including an investigation of the massive SolarWinds espionage campaign first discovered more than a year ago. Russian hackers stole data from several federal agencies and private companies.

Some supporters of the new board say the delay could hurt national security and comes amid growing concerns of a potential conflict with Russia over Ukraine that could involve nation-state cyberattacks. The FBI and other federal agencies recently released an advisory — aimed particularly at critical infrastructure like utilities — on Russian state hackers’ methods and techniques.

“We will never get ahead of these threats if it takes us nearly a year to simply organize a group to investigate major breaches like SolarWinds,” said Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Such a delay is detrimental to our national security and I urge the administration to expedite its process.”

Biden’s order, signed in May, gives the board 90 days to investigate the SolarWinds hack once it’s established. But there’s no timeline for creating the board itself, a job designated to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

In response to questions from The Associated Press, DHS said in a statement it was far along in setting it up and anticipated a “near-term announcement,” but did not address why the process has taken so long.

Scott Shackelford, the cybersecurity program chair at Indiana University and an advocate for creating a cyber review board, said having a rigorous study about what happened in a past hack like SolarWinds is a way of helping prevent similar attacks.

“It sure is taking, my goodness, quite a while to get it going,” Shackelford said. “It’s certainly past time where we could see some positive benefits from having it stood up.”

The Biden administration has made improving cybersecurity a top priority and taken steps to bolster defenses, but this is not the first time lawmakers have been unhappy with the pace of progress. Last year several lawmakers complained it took the administration too long to name a national cyber director, a new position created by Congress.

The SolarWinds hack exploited vulnerabilities in the software supply-chain system and went undetected for most of 2020 despite compromises at a broad swath of federal agencies and dozens of companies, primarily telecommunications and information technology providers. The hacking campaign is named SolarWinds after the U.S. software company whose product was exploited in the first-stage infection of that effort.

The hack highlighted the Russians’ skill at getting to high-level targets. The AP previously reported that SolarWinds hackers had gained access to emails belonging to the then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

The Biden administration has kept many of the details about the cyberespionage campaign hidden.

 

The Justice Department, for instance, said in July that 27 U.S. attorney offices around the country had at least one employee’s email account compromised during the hacking campaign. It did not provide details about what kind of information was taken and what impact such a hack may have had on ongoing cases.

The New York-based staff of the DOJ Antitrust Division also had files stolen by the SolarWinds hackers, according to one former senior official briefed on the hack who was not authorized to speak about it publicly and requested anonymity. That breach has not previously been reported. The Antitrust Division investigates private companies and has access to highly sensitive corporate data.

The federal government has undertaken reviews of the SolarWinds hack. The Government Accountability Office issued a report this month on the SolarWinds hack and another major hacking incident that found there was sometimes a slow and difficult process for sharing information between government agencies and the private sector, The National Security Council also conducted a review of the SolarWinds hack last year, according to the GAO report.

But having the new board conduct an independent, thorough examination of the SolarWinds hack could identify inconspicuous security gaps and issues that others may have missed, said Christopher Hart, a former National Transportation Safety Board chairman who has advocated for the creation of a cyber review board.

“Most of the crashes that the NTSB really goes after … are ones that are a surprise even to the security experts,” Hart said. “They weren’t really obvious things, they were things that really took some deep digging to figure out what went wrong.”

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