[Digital Business Africa] – Swi Innocent won the second prize of the national competition for the best ICT project of the year held during the Cameroon ICT and Innovation Week with his project named “Cameroon e-translate”. The results of this competition were unveiled in Yaounde the last 28th of august 2020. In this interview with Digital Business Africa, he explains the objectives of his project.
Digital Business Africa: What is the short story behind Cameroon e-Translate initiative?
Swi Innocent: Around the ending of 2019, when COVID 19 was at its peak, my team and I sat down and taught of a means to help the government of any good will person reach everyone in Cameroon using the tool of sensitization. We decided to build this system with which uses artificial intelligence to leverage the power of big data and large corpus to produce efficient translation from Cameroon official languages to its indigenous languages.
We have as main objective this year to digitalize at least 10 local languages, built a mobile kit which can perform translation offline, deploy the Android and web portal at the soonest.
Digital Business Africa: Presently, the Gomala’a translation is available on Cameroon e-Translate. Can all french sentences already be translated into Gomala’a by Cameroon e-Translate?
Swi Innocent: Majority of French sentences can be translated, but rare French words which are not used in daily life or words which the system did see in its training data will not be translated and may be considered as a name and just maintained in the sentence.
Digital Business Africa: How do you work to integrate local languages into your solution without errors?
Swi Innocent: We use a data dictionary to extract sentences used as examples and we also get data from the translated version of the Bible, books written in local languages and in the corresponding official language are our sources of data collection. With these well sensors sources, margin of error is greatly reduced.
Digital Business Africa: Generally what is the rate of error made by Cameroon e-Translate when translating?
Swi Innocent: We have over 70% accuracy with the current engine, but we are building a new engine based on transformers and we believe it will increase to over 90%.
Digital Business Africa: Is your online translator already available on the web?
Swi Innocent: It is available but on a private site, we wish to ensure that we have enough security level before going public.
Digital Business Africa: What do you need more for your project to be fully operational?
Swi Innocent: We need legal support and partnership understanding with related enterprises.
Digital Business Africa: What is your strategy to integrate the more than 250 local languages that exist in Cameroon?
Swi Innocent: We start by launching a data collection campaign called « operation save my language ». Here, we shall encourage individuals to send any documents to us through our website, using Google forms. We will collect sentences and materials from any person willing to give so as to save their language.
Digital Business Africa: What are your ambitions?
Swi Innocent: We intend to use Cameroon e-translate in saving Cameroonian languages and put value to our nation. Then we shall intend to the entire African continent, digitalizing and making the African languages and cultures immortals.
Digital Business Africa: If you were given the opportunity to meet the President of the Republic, H. E. Paul Biya, what would you have said to him?
Swi Innocent: I will tell him we have taken upon ourselves to be the first line of defence for the Cameroonian languages and cultures.
Interview by Digital Business Africa