African languages are severely under-represented in NLP research due to lack of datasets covering several NLP tasks. While there are individual language specific datasets that are being expanded to different tasks, only a handful of NLP tasks (e.g. named entity recognition and machine translation) have standardized benchmark datasets covering several geographical and typologically-diverse African languages. In this paper, we develop MasakhaNEWS -- a new benchmark dataset for news topic classification covering 16 languages widely spoken in Africa. We provide an evaluation of baseline models by training classical machine learning models and fine-tuning several language models. Furthermore, we explore several alternatives to full fine-tuning of language models that are better suited for zero-shot and few-shot learning such as cross-lingual parameter-efficient fine-tuning (like MAD-X), pattern exploiting training (PET), prompting language models (like ChatGPT), and prompt-free sentence transformer fine-tuning (SetFit and Cohere Embedding API). Our evaluation in zero-shot setting shows the potential of prompting ChatGPT for news topic classification in low-resource African languages, achieving an average performance of 70 F1 points without leveraging additional supervision like MAD-X. In few-shot setting, we show that with as little as 10 examples per label, we achieved more than 90\% (i.e. 86.0 F1 points) of the performance of full supervised training (92.6 F1 points) leveraging the PET approach.
* Accepted to AfricaNLP Workshop @ICLR 2023 (non-archival)
Large language models (LLMs) have been shown to be able to perform new tasks based on a few demonstrations or natural language instructions. While these capabilities have led to widespread adoption, most LLMs are developed by resource-rich organizations and are frequently kept from the public. As a step towards democratizing this powerful technology, we present BLOOM, a 176B-parameter open-access language model designed and built thanks to a collaboration of hundreds of researchers. BLOOM is a decoder-only Transformer language model that was trained on the ROOTS corpus, a dataset comprising hundreds of sources in 46 natural and 13 programming languages (59 in total). We find that BLOOM achieves competitive performance on a wide variety of benchmarks, with stronger results after undergoing multitask prompted finetuning. To facilitate future research and applications using LLMs, we publicly release our models and code under the Responsible AI License.
Advances in speech and language technologies enable tools such as voice-search, text-to-speech, speech recognition and machine translation. These are however only available for high resource languages like English, French or Chinese. Without foundational digital resources for African languages, which are considered low-resource in the digital context, these advanced tools remain out of reach. This work details the AI4D - African Language Program, a 3-part project that 1) incentivised the crowd-sourcing, collection and curation of language datasets through an online quantitative and qualitative challenge, 2) supported research fellows for a period of 3-4 months to create datasets annotated for NLP tasks, and 3) hosted competitive Machine Learning challenges on the basis of these datasets. Key outcomes of the work so far include 1) the creation of 9+ open source, African language datasets annotated for a variety of ML tasks, and 2) the creation of baseline models for these datasets through hosting of competitive ML challenges.
We take a step towards addressing the under-representation of the African continent in NLP research by creating the first large publicly available high-quality dataset for named entity recognition (NER) in ten African languages, bringing together a variety of stakeholders. We detail characteristics of the languages to help researchers understand the challenges that these languages pose for NER. We analyze our datasets and conduct an extensive empirical evaluation of state-of-the-art methods across both supervised and transfer learning settings. We release the data, code, and models in order to inspire future research on African NLP.