BY Onome Amuge.
Multinational telecom technology conglomerate Meta said it has built an open-source single artificial intelligence (AI) machine named “No Language Left Behind’ (NLLB-200), capable of translating about 200 different languages, including 55 African languages with state-of-the-art results far more accurate than what previous technology could accomplish.
The high quality machine translation tool, according to the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, utilises modelling techniques and learnings to improve and extend translations on its social media outlets and Wikipedia, further improving and expanding connections to billions of people as it helps them communicate better and gain more access to digital content in their preferred or native languages.
Meta noted that it worked with professional translators for each of the languages to develop a reliable benchmark which can automatically assess translation quality for many low-resource languages.
Comparing the quality of translations to previous AI research, Meta said NLLB-200 scored an average of 44 percent higher than previous innovations, adding that NLLB-200’s translations were over 70 percent more accurate in the translation of some African and Indian-based languages.
“We also work with professional translators to do human evaluation too, meaning people who speak the languages natively evaluate what the AI produced. The reality is that a handful of languages dominate the web, so only a fraction of the world can access content and contribute to the web in their own language,” Meta said.
“We want to change this by creating more inclusive machine translations systems – ones that unlock access to the web for the more than four billion people around the world that are currently excluded because they do not speak one of the few languages content is available in,” it said in a statement.
Meta further explained that it is making the NLLB-200 model open-source so developers can work on incorporating it and researchers can extend its reach to even more languages in the near future, and also intends to supply $200,000 worth of grants to nonprofit organisations to enhance real world applications for NLLB-200.
Mark Zuckerberg, Meta CEO, in a post on his Facebook profile said “the 200-language model has over 50 billion parameters, and was programmed using the new Research SuperCluster”, which he described as one of the world’s fastest AI supercomputers.
Zuckerberg added that the advances will enable more than 25 billion translations every day across Meta’s apps.
“Communicating across languages is one superpower that AI provides, but as we keep advancing our AI work it’s improving everything we do — from showing the most interesting content on Facebook and Instagram, to recommending more relevant ads, to keeping our services safe for everyone,” he added.
Commenting on the innovation, Balkissa Ide Siddo, public policy director for Africa, described the 55 African languages included in the machine translation research as a major breakthrough for the African continent.
“Africa is a continent with very high linguistic diversity, and language barriers exist day to day. In the future, imagine visiting your favourite Facebook group, coming across a post in Igbo or Luganda, and being able to understand it in your own language with just a click of a button. That’s where we hope research like this leads us.,” Siddo said.
“Highly accurate translations in more languages could also help to spot harmful content and misinformation, protect election integrity, and curb instances of online sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”
The public policy director further noted that Meta is working to ensure that as many people as possible will be able to access the new educational, social and economic opportunities that the next evolution of the internet will bring to future technology and an everyday living experience in the future.