Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language
I am pleased to inform Members that I have published the 2020 Progress Report for the Welsh Government’s Welsh Language Technology Action Plan.
When I published our Welsh Language Technology Action Plan in October 2018, I said we need to grasp opportunities and tackle technological challenges by trying to anticipate wider technological developments and set a direction for technology and work in the Welsh language.
I set out 27 work packages, with the emphasis on speech, translation and artificial intelligence. As this work is publicly funded, I was determined that the products created under each work package would be available free of charge, for everyone to use and adapt. That is why there are so many of them available to download today under an open license.
2020 was a difficult year. During emergencies like COVID-19, technology can help us to deliver important messages quickly. This is why I have been flexible in reprioritising aspects of the Action Plan, to respond to fast-changing needs during the pandemic.
I brought forward some release dates, one of which is Cysgliad, the Welsh spelling and grammar checker. This is now available from Bangor University free of charge for individuals, all schools and small businesses to use. I felt this was important for school learners and their parents during the first lockdown, with so many children learning independently at home while schools were closed. Sometimes, there would be no adult in the house who spoke Welsh to help them with their Welsh writing. Cysgliad can make a real difference to them and to many others.
I have also asked Bangor University to prioritise automatic subtitling of Welsh videos. The requests from universities to caption Welsh lectures on video are increasing. This work was timetabled for later, but as so much teaching is now online, I have asked for this work to be brought forward.
Technology has allowed events that would have been cancelled in 2020 to be held virtually. Elements of the Urdd and National Eisteddfodau moved online, and online video meetings have become commonplace during the pandemic. This has presented a number of challenges for the Welsh language, as simultaneous translation is still not available in all packages. If it were, we could use more Welsh. Further information about what we have done to tackle this is available in the report.
Cardiff University's School of Computer Science and Informatics is currently developing work on word embeddings. This will improve the way computers can understand the meaning of Welsh text and the intent of the users. This has led to the possibility of creating new games to help those learning Welsh.
It is only by working together that we have able to begin to realise the Plan's objectives and contribute to doubling the daily use of Welsh by 2050. I know that technology develops rapidly. I am keen for the Welsh language to move with those developments. That will be the case as we implement the rest of this Plan, moving next to exciting developments in computer-assisted translation.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep Members informed. Should Members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns, I would be happy to do so.