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VEON and Beeline Kazakhstan Partner with GSMA and Barcelona Supercomputing Centre to Support Use of AI in Local Languages

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Director of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center Mateo Valero Cortes, Beeline Kazakhstan CEO Evgeny Nastradin, GSMA Chief Marketing Officer Lara Dewar and VEON Chief of Staff Hande Asik signed the MoU to explore collaboration in AI project in Baku, Azerbaijan and Barcelona, Spain.
Director of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center Mateo Valero Cortes, Beeline Kazakhstan CEO Evgeny Nastradin, GSMA Chief Marketing Officer Lara Dewar and VEON Chief of Staff Hande Asik signed the MoU to explore collaboration in AI project in Baku, Azerbaijan and Barcelona, Spain.

Baku and Barcelona, 15 May 2024: VEON Ltd. (NASDAQ: VEON, Euronext Amsterdam: VEON), a global digital operator that provides converged connectivity and online services, is delighted to announce that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Beeline Kazakhstan, the GSMA and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputacion (BSC-CNS) to explore collaboration on the development of artificial intelligence and language technologies for languages with low digital resources.

The parties will explore collaboration opportunities focusing on the development of mechanisms and documentation on language models and AI systems for under-resourced languages, including the local languages of the countries where VEON operates.

The MoU was signed by the four parties during M360 Eurasia. The event, opening in Baku today, welcomes global connectivity leaders and policymakers for two days of discussion, debate and networking.

Out of nearly 7000 languages spoken around the globe, only seven are considered high-resource languages in the digital world: English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Arabic, German and Japanese. The lack of resources in other languages results in an AI language gap which leads to sub-optimal user experience in AI applications, deepens the bias in AI models and risks deepening the digital divide in AI technologies.

Catalan is spoken by 10 million people, spread across various parts of Spain and other areas of Europe, such as Andorra and Alghero. For this reason, the BSC Language Technologies unit has as a priority generating digital resources to guarantee the presence of Catalan in the digital world, while making these resources useful for other languages with the same objective.

Operating in countries that are home to 7% of the global population that mostly speak under-sourced languages, VEON is committed to addressing the AI language gap by supporting the usage of low-resource languages in AI, starting with Kazakhstan where Beeline Kazakhstan’s IT subsidiary QazCode already launched Kaz-RoBERTA-conversational – a Kazakh-language AI module supporting customer service in Beeline Kazakhstan’s digital applications.

“Artificial Intelligence is the next game changer in the history of technology, and it is in our hands to design and develop it in a way that promotes inclusion for all. Enabling low-resource languages to be a part of the world of AI empowers hundreds of millions of people around the globe by addressing the current shortcomings of the AI landscape. We are delighted to be the first operator group to partner with Barcelona Supercomputing Center and the GSMA to explore opportunities to raise to this challenge.” said Kaan Terzioglu, Group CEO of VEON.

“Beeline Kazakhstan is the leading operator in AI technologies in the markets where VEON operates. Having previously developed AI-based solutions in Kazakh language, Beeline Kazakhstan and Qazcode are well aware of the challenges and opportunities that come with Kazakhstan’s transformation into the age of AI. We are extremely excited to partner with Barcelona Supercomputing Center and the GSMA, bringing international experience to our journey of developing new use cases for Kazakh-language AI applications.” said Evgeny Nastradin, CEO of Beeline Kazakhstan.

“The development of artificial intelligence also generates gaps between languages. It is important to close them. For this reason, we are making our knowledge and resources available. The work through the Aina Alliance keeps growing and has allowed us to sign a strategic agreement with the GSMA. This is one more step for making our open-source AI expertise accessible to the international community. BSC has published a wide-range number of datasets and open-source models through the Aina project, leading the path into the open-source AI resources availability.”said Mateo Valero Cortes, Director of the BSC-CNS.

“The project with VEON and Beeline Kazakhstan is the first on our exciting journey with the BSC. We now call on industry to join us and work together to reduce the disparity in developing and applying AI technologies across different languages. This disparity exacerbates the AI language gap, and the challenges that come with it, including siloed innovation and widening the digital divide. The Aina Alliance aims to ensure that no language is left behind as the world advances into an increasingly AI-driven future.” said Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer of the GSMA.

Key to the partnership will be the GSMA Foundry innovation accelerator, an initiative that brings together mobile operators and the wider technology industry, to help members forge the digital future by rapidly developing real-world solutions to industry challenges.

Cooperation will take place within the scope of Aina Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Catalonia and the GSMA, which builds on the Aina Project promoted and financed by the Government of Catalonia, and which seeks to support the presence of non-global languages in artificial intelligence models, enabling speakers of all languages to participate fully in the evolution of the digital world. VEON is the first pilot in the partnership, with the Aina Alliance now inviting other mobile operator partners and organisations to take part in addressing the AI Language gap through collaborative effort.

About Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputacion
Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) is the national supercomputing centre in Spain. They specialise in high performance computing (HPC) and manage MareNostrum, one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe. BSC is at the service of the international scientific community and of industry that requires HPC resources. Their multidisciplinary research team and our computational facilities –including MareNostrum– make BSC an international centre of excellence in e-Science.

BSC has been successful in attracting talent, and their research focuses on four fields: Computer Sciences, Life Sciences, Earth Sciences and Computer Applications in Science and Engineering. The research lines are developed within the framework of European Union research funding programmes, Spanish and Catalan public research calls and collaborations with leading companies.

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