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India Unveils AI-based Translation Software for Students

A team from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay (IIT-Bombay) has launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-based software ecosystem that translates scientific and technical learning material from English to Hindi and several other Indian languages.

The software, Project Udaan, was launched at a virtual event earlier this week. It can translate engineering textbooks and learning material in one-sixth the time it would take for a team of domain and linguistic experts to work manually, according to a press release.  Project Udaan is a donation-based project with an end-to-end ecosystem that helps in translation. The team has developed a robust bilingual OCR (optical character recognition) technology and several post-editing tools by which they have access to digital bilingual dictionaries in a machine-readable format. The team is, therefore, able to use appropriate scientific and technical terms available in Hindi, instead of transliterating the English terms.

“In due course, as our AI and ML [machine learning] engine learns with every page and every book being edited in each domain, we expect to achieve a much shorter turnaround time,” the lead professor of the team at IIT-Bombay, Ganesh Ramakrishnan, noted.

Project Udaan will help translate scientific and technical terms into several languages other than English and could help students pursuing courses in engineering and technology. Through donations, the IIT-Bombay team aims to translate 500 engineering texts in Hindi in one year and 15 Indian languages over three years.

Seven years ago, the team decided to come up with ‘Project Udaan,’ owing to the wide gap they saw in the availability of technical knowledge in Hindi and other Indian languages. The Indian Constitution requires every state and local authority to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minorities. The state policies that addressed this requirement served the citizens well for the first three decades since independence. This was a time where most of the economic activity was conducted using traditional technologies, which could easily be transacted in regional languages.

The scenario however witnessed a drastic change when the country made progress from being an agrarian society overcoming extreme poverty to a largely urban and urbanising society. Many factories were built using modern technologies and there was an explosion of opportunities in software technology. Fuelled by this demand for skilled labour with fluency in English, there was an emergence of many secondary schools and colleges of higher learning that taught in English. While this benefited 10-20% of Indians who become proficient in English, 80% of the nation was left behind by their inability to learn in English. The need of the hour was to cater to 80% of the Indian population by making scientific and technical knowledge available in Indian languages.

In another move to provide better educational opportunities to the country’s youth, the government unveiled a virtual school concept that will allow millions of eligible students outside the school system to complete their studies without having to physically attend. The concept will be implemented through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and will be entirely digital. The school is the first-of-its-kind initiative in India. It will provide advanced digital learning platforms via virtual live classrooms and labs.

As OpenGov Asia reported, the availability of digital schooling will benefit those who are out of the existing system. The move also underscores the government’s push towards increasing the adoption of technology in the education sector. The school is a new model of learning and is an example of how leveraging technology and innovation can facilitate greater inclusion in education.


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