Lacuna Fund to Support Natural Language Processing Technologies Across Africa

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Several organizations from different areas of the world have come together behind Lacuna Fund to announce a second round of funding to projects that support Natural Language Processing technologies in Africa.

These organizations are Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Google, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the initiative “Fair Forward: Artificial Intelligence for All.”

Recipients of the fund are expected to create openly accessible text and speech datasets that can favor Natural Language Processing Technologies in 29 languages across the African continent.

Dataset training centers will spring up in Eastern, Western, and Southern Africa for supporting a range of needs for low resource languages, including machine translation, speech recognition, name recognition, and part of speech tagging, sentiment analysis, and multi-modal datasets.

All the technologies developed in this way have to be locally developed and owned, and apart from that, they will be openly accessible to the international data community.

In this age and time, the need for high-quality data is crucial. Unfortunately, it is one of the main barriers to the development of local AI-based solutions, especially in those areas where resources to acquire data are scarce.

Lacuna Fund 1
Lacuna Fund

It is a fact that both the availability of training data and AI-based solutions can play a major role in addressing current inequalities regarding access to knowledge, services, and the diversity of cultural expressions.

For example, voice interaction has the potential to enable millions of people to access information and services, preserve cultural heritage, make tech more inclusive, and ultimately foster social, economic development and local value creation.

Till now, Lacuna has received up to 50 outstanding applications from organizations across Africa. Participating in the Lacuna Fund will enable the building of skills and capacities which can directly use these datasets to create AI-based solutions.

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