Telkom Launches AI Technology Platform To Overcome Language Barriers In South Africa

Izwe.ai offers transcription and translation across a range of languages, as well as a number of text classification and entity extraction services.

Telkom
Telkom. Image source: WhichVoIp.co.za

A new artificial intelligence (AI) platform has been unveiled by Telkom, in collaboration with Enlabeler, which could have a far-reaching impact on the education, health and business sectors. The new AI platform translates speech into text from English and local languages. It has a unique ability to interpret South African accents.

The platform, izwe.ai, has been officially launched at the AI Expo Africa 2021, the largest business-focused Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation and 4IR trade event in Africa, running from September 7-9.

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.

Izwe.ai is a collaboration between Telkom and data labelling organisation Enlabeler, who joined forces in the past year to create a new platform around language and speech services. Both companies  saw a growing demand in this space, realising many of the international players are not set-up to service the African market.

In the educational space, izwe.ai aims to deliver local-language transcription that gives all learners equal access to learning material. The technology also provides deep text analysis of transcribed content, which can enhance understanding.

Telkom
Stefan Steffen, Executive of Data Science at Telkom.

The accuracy of the service will constantly improve, thanks to its machine-learning foundation, and Enlabeler’s “Humans in the Loop” transcription and translation capabilities.

Telkom head of Innovation Dr Mmaki Jantjies says the izwe.ai technology will 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” she says. “For businesses in a work-from-home environment – retail, customer service and internal communication are increasingly digital,” said Dr Jantjies. “So there is a growing need for AI-driven services, such as those provided by izwe.ai.”

The technology could also help to close the inequality gaps in South Africa’s education system.

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” says Sarah Mthintso, CEO of the Telkom Foundation, which supports education across the country.

“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,” says Mthintso. “That’s where AI-driven speech services are so important.”

Telkom Executive of Data Science Stefan Steffen says 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. ”

AI technology is also a core part of the commitment to technological advancement by Telkom subsidiary BCX, which offers complete enterprise ICT support to client businesses so they can focus on customers, productivity, and digital transformation.

Over and above the release of izwe.ai, the company is showcasing many of its data-science innovations at the conference, including image-search and object detection processes; telecommunications network forecasting and data-driven cyber security.

Telkom is a diamond sponsor and corporate social responsibility partner of the event, now entering its fourth year. It is also sponsoring the AI Expo Africa “Innovation Wall”, an academic poster session showcasing the best applied research from South African universities. Last year, 34 posters were published – 42% from women authors.

Also read: Why AI is Struggling to Detect Hate Speech

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