Three projects led by University of Malta researchers in the field of Artificial Intelligence are being collectively funded €161,800 by the Malta Digital Innovation Authority, as part of the undertaking of Malta’s National AI Strategy.
This was announced by Malta’s Minister for the Economy and Industry, Hon. Silvio Schembri on Thursday 22 April 2021, before each of the three projects were introduced to those present and those following the livestream via social media.
Minister Schembri noted that the projects being funded are innovative in that they each have important and wide practical applications, with the element of innovation being one of the aims behind the National AI Strategy.
"AI is no longer the future, it is the present, and these three projects which are all related to better understanding the Maltese language, are the fruit borne by the National Strategy for AI that will lead us into 2030 and help transform Malta into a leading AI economy."
The first project, called 'Edu.AI', and which is being led by Prof. Charles Mifsud from the Centre for Literacy, will demonstrate the realm of possibilities of using AI in Education through the direct involvement of educators, children and their parents, through the creation of two learning projects, namely an AI-powered conversational toy as well as a number of AI games that will promote literacy.
The Centre for Literacy has recently announced it is spearheading a project called AILit, which is promoting literacy with 8-10 year olds.
The second and third projects, both being led by Dr Claudia Borg within the Department of Artificial Intelligence within the Faculty of ICT, will upgrade existing text processing resources and tools to bring them to a state where they can be used by any industry wanting to process Maltese text, and training people in the annotation of speech data so it can be computationally processed.
Although the Department already has a project in place that explores the best algorithms to create an Automatic Speech Recognition System, it requires more annotated data to make this effort more usable.
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.
Last but not least, upon elaborating on the important role of MDIA in supporting all types of innovation and in preparing this strategy and implementing it, Mr Stephen McCarthy, the CEO of MDIA, said Malta has now, for a number of years, been considered a frontline player when it comes to welcoming new, disruptive innovations, and that the richness of our human intellect needs to be recognised as one of the key contributors to this very favourable status.