Forum highlights challenges for computational linguistics in relation to the Arabic language
The College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), in collaboration with Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) and Qatar National Library (QNL), hosted the inaugural International Workshop on Arabic Big Data and AI (IWABigDAI) from May 11-12.
The workshop provided researchers, scientists, and engineers with a platform to share and discuss their ongoing work related to artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, with a focus on the Arabic language and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Students and early career researchers also had the opportunity to showcase their research during poster and demo sessions.
The Arabic language poses several challenges for the field of big data analytics and AI, especially Natural Language Processing (NLP), given the language’s complex morphology and widely varying dialects. In addition, advancing Arabic language AI is still hampered by a lack of dedicated resources and investment.
To address these challenges, workshop topics spanned big data analysis of Arabic content, AI applied to the Arabic language, resources, methodologies and tools, standards and best practices for creating language resources, as well as applied language technologies. It also tackled opinion mining using social media analytics and computational social sciences in the context of the MENA region.
Students and researchers heard insights from Prof. Edouard Hovy, Research Professor at the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, in an intensive three-hour tutorial on “The Science of Annotation”.
Among the workshop speakers were eminent academics, researchers, and graduate students from leading institutions including the Universities of Cambridge, Leeds, and Lancaster (all UK), NYU Abu Dhabi (UAE), Manouba (Tunisia), Birzeit (Palestine), Mohammed I and Mohammed V (Morocco), and King Saud (Saudi Arabia). Speakers included Dr. Hassan Sawwaf, Founder of aiXplain, USA, Dr. Kareem Darwish, Senior Scientist, aiXplain, Dr. Khalid Choukri, CEO, ELDA, France, Dr. Hatem Haddad, Co-Founder and CTO, iCompass, Tunisia, and Dr. Hussein Al-Natsheh, CTO, Unstructured Data Intelligence @Beyond Limits, UAE.
Commenting after the event, Dr. Amal Al-Malki, Founding Dean, CHSS, HBKU, said: “Arabic is spoken by over 400 million people globally. With its commercial and strategic importance, addressing this language and its dialects is important for the MENA region and the globe. To this end, the workshop brought together experts who are leading and contributing to these efforts, and the impact is certain to spark important ideas, research, and practices focusing on Arabic Natural Language Processing and big data analysis.”