Co-designing technology with indigenous interpreters


The main goal of this project was to collaborate with indigenous languages interpreters to co-design a Conversational Agent (CA) which could aid them to collectively generate data that: 1) could help them make visible the numerous problems and barriers they face working as interpreters, particularly within Mexico's justice system and; 2) increase their agency and decision-making power on issues related to the interpretation, such as in public policy. In this sense, the project intended to address the existing need to map the current state of indigenous languages interpretation in Mexico, to provide data that, for example, could help assess existing public policies related to interpretation and access to justice for indigenous Nations, or that could help identify indigenous languages and variants of such languages in need of certified interpreters.

Central to the project was the development of a methodology to align the system and the research process, in all its stages, with the principles promoted by the project, which are: gender perspective, co-design, shared benefits, digital autonomy and data sovereignty. Important elements of this methodology included a series of workshops with indigenous language interpreters, the creation of a Research Protocol and Collaboration Agreements and the development of strategies to incorporate the CARE Principles for indigenous data management into the project.

In this context, some of the research questions that motivated the work include:

How to develop co-design mechanisms to enable the inclusion of the end-users in all stages of the life cycle of an AI system? How to align technological development with the principles of gender perspective, collaboration, co-design, digital autonomy and data sovereignty?
Which factors are important to assess the feasibility of developing an AI solution based on the aforementioned principles? How to incorporate Feminist theory and Feminist practices into AI development?


Hamlet Antonio Garcia Zúñiga, Adviser

Researcher in the Linguistics Section of the Yucatan Center of National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
He has worked on various interpretation and translation projects in the Mayan language in the Yucatan peninsula.

Gaby León Ortiz, Community Link

Co-coordinator of interpretation and translation of indigenous languages at the Indigenous Professional Center for Counseling, Defense and Translation A.C (CEPIADET).
Indigenous interpreter and translator, member of the community of Santa María Yucunicoco, speaker of the Mixtec language, a variant of the High West.

Ivan Vladimir Meza Ruiz, Co-leader

Researcher at Research Institute of Applied Mathematics and in Systems (IIMAS), National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
Specialized in Natural Language Processing, who has worked to develop translators for indigenous languages.

Sofía Trejo, Co-leader

Researcher at Barcelona's Supercomputing Centre (BSC-CNS).
Specialized in the ethical, legal, social, economic and cultural aspects of Artificial Intelligence.

  • Acknowledgments

    The research team wishes to express their gratitude to all the staff of Centro Profesional Indígena de Asesoría, Defensa y Traducción, A. C (CEPIADET) who took part in the design and implementation of the project, as well as to the Human Rights Ombudsman of the People of Oaxaca and their personnel for facilitating their time and facilities. No less important is the gratitude we extend to the A+ Alliance which sponsored the project; to the f<a+i>r Network, which provided us with constant support during its development and; to Paola Ricaurte and Tatiana Revilla for helping design the workshops.

    We also thank the group of interpreters who took part in the workshops, whose knowledge and experience were essential to the project: Angélica Morelos Gómez, Donaldo Rivera Lezema, Ernesto Cortés Venegas, Flor Silvestre de Jesús Ramírez, José Antonio Orozco Gutiérrez, Jovita Cortés Venegas, Juan Ruiz Roque, Virginia Jiménez Antonio, Gaby León Ortiz and Gabriela García García.