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Bridging communication barriers in COVID-19 triage and screening – A mobile speech app

Publication Date: 
Monday, October 12, 2020

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an entity under the Department of Science and Innovation and Aweza have collaborated to develop a unique mobile application to bridge communication barriers between healthcare providers and patients. Aweza is an international award-winning tech-based initiative that strives to inspire and empower South Africans to overcome language barriers across all sectors of society.

Contact Person

David Mandaha

+27 (12) 841 3654/072 126 8910

dmandaha@csir.co.za

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an entity under the Department of Science and Innovation and Aweza have collaborated to develop a unique mobile application to bridge communication barriers between healthcare providers and patients. Aweza is an international award-winning tech-based initiative that strives to inspire and empower South Africans to overcome language barriers across all sectors of society.

The mobile application, AwezaMed COVID-19, features localised speech technology such as speech recognition, machine translation, and text-to-speech developed by the CSIR and works on any Android smartphone. It enables healthcare providers to access a phrase in English, translate it into any South African official language, and play the phrase in the selected language.

Originally developed with content pertaining to maternal healthcare and obstetrics, the application has been enhanced with COVID-19-related content and is available for download from the Play Store. There is no cost for users.

“By bridging the communication barrier, the trust relationship between the healthcare provider and patient can be improved. In addition, the patient’s experience and the healthcare provider-patient confidentiality can be improved, and lives can possibly be saved,” says Dr Karen Calteaux, CSIR Digital Audio-Visual Technologies Research Group Leader.

The content of the application was developed in collaboration with health experts and is aimed at supporting healthcare workers to communicate with patients at healthcare facilities, especially during COVID-19-related screening and triage.

“AwezaMed emanated from a project funded by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, that strives to bridge language barriers between healthcare practitioners and patients in clinics. A decision was taken to develop a version to address language barriers experienced by medical professionals working with COVID-19 patients,” says Calteaux.

The application can be accessed for free here: http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=za.co.aweza.covid19

For all queries regarding the mobile application, please contact Dr Karen Calteaux:  kcalteaux@csir.co.za.

Issued by:

David Mandaha: CSIR Media Relations Manager
Tel: 012 841 3654
Mobile: 072 126 8910
E-mail: dmandaha@csir.co.za

About the CSIR:

The CSIR, an entity of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. Constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1945 as a science council, the CSIR undertakes directed and multidisciplinary research and technological innovation, as well as industrial and scientific development to improve the quality of life of all South Africans. For more information, visit www.csir.co.za

Follow us on social media:

Twitter: @CSIR. Facebook: CSIRSouthAfrica. Instagram: CSIRSouthAfrica. LinkedIn: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Youtube: CSIRNewMedia

About SADiLaR (South African Centre for Digital Language Resources)

The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) is a national centre supported by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) as part of the new South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR).  SADiLaR has an enabling function, with a focus on all official languages of South Africa, supporting research and development in the domains of language technologies and language-related studies in the humanities and social sciences.  The Centre supports the creation, management and distribution of digital language resources, as well as applicable software, which are freely available for research purposes through the Language Resource Catalogue. For more information visit: www.sadilar.org

Follow us on social media:

Twitter: @SADiLaR_ZA  Instagram: @sadilar_za  Facebook: @SouthAfricanCentreForDigitalLanguageResources  YouTube: @SADiLaR

About the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture:

The mission of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) is to transform the delivery of sport, arts and culture by ensuring equitable access, development and excellence at all levels of participation and  harness the socio-economic contributions that can create a better life for all South Africans. Through the Directorate: Human Language Technologies, DSAC has supported numerous projects that develop language technologies to give South Africans access to information and government services in their home language, irrespective of their level of literacy. One such project is Mburisano: A speech-to-speech system to bridge language barriers. The mobile app AwezaMed COVID-19 is one of the deliverables of the Mburisano project. For more information visit www.dsac.gov.za or email Tshikani Mabasa at Tshikanim@dsac.gov.za.