R&D: Covenant University partners OBTranslate

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Covenant University in Nigeria is partnering with OBTranslate to undertake research and development activities in a broad range of areas.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two parties covers Machine Translation (MT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and linguistics.

Under the arrangement, OBTranslate scientists would develop the “OBTranslate” machine translation and Generative AI platform.

The proposed partnership is contained in a joint statement issued by the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Abiodun Adebayo, and the Founder/Chief Executive Officer of OpenBinacle Group, Mr Emmanuel Gabriel, in Ota, Ogun State.

OBTranslate is a subsidiary of OpenBinacle Group.

It is a deep learning company that has developed an online CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tool, Neural Machine Translation (NMT) and AI platform for over 2,000 African and European languages (OBTranslate).

It also aimed to bridge language barriers on the African continent and globally.

The statement quotes Adebayo, as saying the constructive partnership is a welcome development.

The VC said the university’s philosophy and pillars were deeply rooted in Biblical principles.

”The principles are directed towards effecting change in the recovery process of Nigeria’s education sector and the restoration of the dignity of the Blackman.

“Covenant University is currently ranked among the best universities in the world in teaching, research, and impact.

“Research has been central to Covenant University’s twin missions of offering solutions to critical societal problems and being a leading global educational institution.

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”These ambitions are intimately linked, and their innovations have benefited the country’s health, economy and political processes.

“The University’s current feat as one of Africa’s leading research institutions is made possible by its world-class faculty, staff and postgraduate students.

”They are immersed in innovative and cutting-edge research, including studies in bioinformatics, human genome research, cancer research, renewable energy, IOT-enabled smart and connected communities, biotechnology, as well as leadership, arts, humanities, social sciences, among others,” Adebayo said.

According to him, these research activities are coordinated under research clusters and centres of excellence superintended by the university’s Centre for Research, Innovation, and Discovery (CUCRID).

He said the university ”is, therefore, excited by this partnership with OBTranslate.

”We sees it as another opportunity for an impactful contribution towards expanding the frontier of knowledge in Africa.

As part of its goals, OBTranslate will enable ‘free text’ and document translation, speaker devices, smartphones, and humanoid robots to understand African and European languages”.

On his part, OpenBinacle’s CEO said the long-term mission of OBTranslate was to identify languages and provide natural language processing that will sustain and preserve them from extinction.

According to him, the goal of automatic translation of free-text and documents from foreign languages into African languages (or between any two languages) is one of the oldest pursuits of AI research at OBTranslate.

“Our community of scientists is exploiting large datasets of translated and monolingual text to learn translation with statistical models.

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”This is with a current focus on neural models,” Gabriel said.

He explained that the collaboration was essential to OBTranslate AI research and the preservation of over 2,000 African languages spoken in all 55 countries in Africa.

“Covenant University and researchers from other academic institutions from different backgrounds can bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table.

”This is by collaborating across different fields and industries, researchers can build on each other’s work and make more significant breakthroughs,” he explained.

Gabriel added that OBTranslate has built its MT and Generative AI models to learn translation with statistical models and a community-centered, humanistic.

The AI models also include interdisciplinary engagement that benefits all stakeholders, including diverse communities, creatives, and researchers in all 55 countries in Africa.

“Academic institutions and the people of African descent will share a stake in OBTranslate established in each country in Africa.

”This will allow African community of translators, researchers, mathematicians, software developers, and NLP experts to control the platform independently while training and modeling over 800 trillion language corpus datasets”.

OBTranslate community of scientists, postgraduate students of Covenant University will foster the OBTranslate AI research, development, and innovation in Nigeria.

According to Gabriel, it will also develop further its machine translation and Generative AI-powered products and services, which can solve local problems and create new business opportunities in Africa and the rest of the world.

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Besides, he said, it was important to develop a clear ethical framework that guides the development and use of AI systems.

“Our framework is based on core values of non-discriminatory language data modeling, human safety, fairness and transparency.

”These are developed in collaboration with diverse stakeholders including policymakers, industry experts and civil society.”

Gabriel assured that “no language in Africa will be left behind”.

He pledged to raise an army of researchers, scientists and linguists in Africa.

The CEO noted that OBTranslate has evolved since its first inception in 2019 leading to the development of version 1.1.1 in 2020.

Its latest version (1.9.6), with major portions of code are efficient and easy to maintain, he said.

“Presently, we are working on version 2.5.0, which will denote major changes in the architecture, the components, and ‘neural models’.

”The new version is tailored to understand a larger dataset of languages on the universal free text and speech translator.”

According to him, OBTranslate is aligned with the aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the African Union, and six SDG goals for sustainable development.

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