ASTANA – The development of the Kazakh language and how it can be integrated with artificial intelligence (AI) was the focus of a panel session at the Digital Bridge forum on Oct. 13 in Astana.
“The future of the Kazakh language is in our hands. Since everything is technology, the reason for the lack of content in the Kazakh language is now the reason why artificial intelligence does not enter the Kazakh language,” said Bagdat Mussin, Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry, delivering his remarks.
He named increasing the Kazakh language content as a priority task. The more Kazakh language content, the easier it will be to incorporate it into AI technologies, said the ministry, because the most important thing for AI is data.
“We are preparing an AI development strategy, following the task of the President. This strategy should also include how we can integrate Kazakh language and AI,” said Mussin.
This can be one of the first tasks addressed by the AI institute to be established at Nazarbayev University, an initiative voiced by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his address to the forum’s plenary session on Oct. 12.
Mussin also suggested creating a separate category for the Kazakh language start-ups at the annual Astana Hub battle.
“Most venture pitches are mostly international or in the Russian language,” said Mussin. “10-15% of the venture funds being built with the help of the state must be used to support Kazakh language startups or startups that are aimed at promoting the Kazakh language.”
Sanzhar Myrzagalym, a data platform and AI technology solutions professional at Microsoft, spoke about the company‘s efforts to incorporate service to the Kazakh language.
“Microsoft is doing a lot to support the Kazakh language. It is present in many AI services, for example, Text to Speech services [referring to Realistic AI Voice Generator]. There are two great voices – Aigul and Daulet. Improving the quality of their voices is in our hands,” said Myrzagalym.
Three years ago, Microsoft introduced the Kazakh language in their translation services, and more is expected to be done in the near future, he added. For that, the company needs a qualified language corpus.
Andrey Ostafichuk, the chief data officer at Beeline Kazakhstan, stressed the growing popularity of the Kazakh language in the company’s services. While this is a notable achievement, it comes with specific challenges of adapting services.
“Because our society is bilingual, it is important, while providing services, to switch on time to the language that your customer is using,” said Ostafichuk.
Businesses should be more involved in the development of the league. “Skills that are lacking are largely in business, not academia because business feels the changes and needs of the market,” he said.
The development of the Kazakh language will remain a priority of state policy, said President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev during his meeting with Rauan Kenzhekhanuly on Oct. 12. Kenzhekhanuly, who moderated the session, is the head of Bilim Media Group, which has translated hundreds of international bestsellers into Kazakh language.
Over the past decade, the Kazakh language has been increasingly embraced by the population after decades of language suppression in the Soviet Union, part of the efforts to assimilate non-Russian ethnic groups into a unified Soviet identity.
Simultaneously, the Kazakh government has been promoting the use of the Kazakh language in various aspects of public life, including government, media and business.
Based on the 2021 National Population Census, Kazakhs account for 70.4% of the country’s 19 million population.
The number of Kazakh language speakers is on the rise as well. The census data reveals that more than 13 million people, or approximately 80% of those aged five years and older, are proficient in the state language, and nearly half of them use it on a daily basis.