Telkom launches AI technology platform to overcome language barriers in SA
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Telecoms Telkom has unveiled a new artificial intelligence platform izwe.ai, in collaboration with Enlabeler, which translates speech into text from English and local languages. The platform has a unique ability to interpret South African accents.
Enlabeler is a data-labelling organisation.
According to the company, the platform could have a far-reaching impact on the education, health, and business sectors.
The platform has been officially launched at the AI Expo Africa 2021, the largest business-focused artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and fourth industrial revolution (4IR) trade event in Africa, running from September 7 to 9.
Telkom said Izwe.ai offers transcription and translation across a range of languages, as well as a number of text classification and entity extraction services.
“Applications include academic and legal transcription, contact centre transcription and analysis; and media production services, such as providing subtitles and captions to existing audio,” the company said.
Telkom head of Innovation Mmaki Jantjies said the izwe.ai technology would help advance the Telkom vision of becoming the primary provider of speech services for African languages in broad commercial applications.
“This technology can be a game-changer in business, as well as education, government, and healthcare delivery, for businesses in a work-from-home environment - retail, customer service, and internal communication are increasingly digital, so there is a growing need for AI-driven services, such as those provided by izwe.ai," said Jantjies.
In the educational space, izwe.ai aims to deliver local-language transcription that gives all pupils equal access to learning material. The technology also provides deep text analysis of transcribed content, which can enhance understanding.
The technology could also help to close the inequality gaps in South Africa’s education system, the company said.
CEO of the Telkom Foundation Sarah Mthintso said: “Izwe.ai could transform the lives of learners from disadvantaged communities by making education in science, technology, English and maths (STEM) fields easier to grasp – for both students, and teachers”.
“STEM subjects are the foundation for the careers of the future, but to truly drive digital transformation in South Africa, we need learners to be able to learn in their home language. That’s where AI-driven speech services are so important,” said Mthintso.
Telkom executive of Data Science Stefan Steffen said izwe.ai is an ideal platform to deliver value within the Telkom group and to lead the external market through innovative products and services.
“With Enlabeler, we have built a solution that can offer a seamless transcription experience with highly localised and reliable outputs, which help us deliver as a strategic partner for our clients. Working with an agile start-up like Enlabeler has helped us accelerate our long-term plans to unlock this market segment,” said Stefan Steffen.