Three AI projects announced which will lead to the use of the Maltese language in industry sector

Last Updated on Friday, 23 April, 2021 at 10:04 am by Andre Camilleri

Minister for the Economy and Industry Silvio Schembri announced three projects that, with the use of Artificial Intelligence, will lead to the use of the Maltese language in the education and industry sectors to be on par with foreign languages. With an investment of more than €161,000, they will lead to the Maltese language being written, understood and processed in the technology we use every day. This was stated during a press conference portraying a successful collaboration between the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA) and the University of Malta.

Minister Schembri explained how Artificial Intelligence is being explored as an assistive tool in the education sector and even in industry. He highlighted the benefits of the three projects, called Speech Processing, Text Processing and Edu AI. He illustrated how, through the ‘Speech Processing’ project, researchers are assisted in making the systems understand the spoken language, so that it can be processed and translated into action. Through this assistance, over 100 hours of data will be created to help with language processing. Through the ‘Text Processing’ project, researchers will be strengthening the relevant technical tools so that written Maltese is understood and processed. Meanwhile, the ‘Edu AI’ project is exploring how Artificial Intelligence can serve as an assistive tool in the education sector. Children will be constantly interacting with technology, where it will assist them in academic development, thus instilling in them the importance of Artificial Intelligence from a young age.

As Minister Schembri said, with the aid of these projects, we can now start using the Maltese language, for example in a chat box. “When a company adopts an automated online customer care service, to this day this is done in a foreign language. Now we have made the tools so that the Maltese language can also be integrated and used like other languages. Thus, if a customer writes in Maltese, the chat box will be able to understand the language and reply in Maltese,” said Minister Schembri.

He also mentioned another example of text processing related to watching a movie with subtitles. As Minister Schembri said, “Until today, we all have to choose English or Italian or French, but Maltese has never been an option. Thanks to this tool, Maltese can now be integrated as one of the languages that can be used as subtitles.”

The Minister for the Economy and Industry said that this is a practical way of using Artificial Intelligence in everyday life and the beginning of a series of tangible results from the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy till the year 2030, which has been announced in the last two years.

“Our goal in AI is not only to attract foreign investment and create jobs in the sector, but also to ensure that the benefits brought by this wave of innovation reach more segments of Maltese society. It is to this end that the Malta Digital Innovation Authority has allocated these funds, in order to offer the necessary support to achieve the government’s goal of transforming our country into the best jurisdiction from which to promote ideas related to AI,” said Minister Silvio Schembri.

University of Malta Rector Prof. Alfred J. Vella remarked that the field of Artificial Intelligence is playing an increasingly significant part in various industries, with these three projects being excellent examples. Upon noting that Maltese companies are, according to Eurostat, among the most prevalent users of AI within the EU, with 19% of companies using this technology, he said that the University’s academics play a prominent role in both education and research intended to promote the technology. He added that today is the International Girls in ICT Day, and augured more girls and women in Malta to participate actively in ICT and science, so that our economy and social wellbeing will have a better future. 

MDIA Chief Executive Stephen McCarthy explained how, since 2019, the Malta Digital Innovation Authority has been working on an action plan to make the initiatives outlined in the National AI Strategy a reality. “In fact, the authority is working on various projects that are aimed at making Artificial Intelligence a part of everyday life. The three projects announced today form part of Malta’s vision in terms of AI: that of becoming an Artificial Intelligence launchpad by 2030,” concluded Mr McCarthy.

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