As the world grapples with what is considered the deadliest plagues since the Spanish Flu in 1918, governments and the private sector globally have pooled their resources and deployed their best technologies to help mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on humanity.
And this is what Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a premier science and industrial research body under the auspices of the Department of Science and Innovation, and Aweza have accomplished.
They have joined hands to “develop a unique mobile application to bridge communication barriers between healthcare providers and patients” during the coronavirus pandemic.
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.
Called AwezaMed COVID-19, the mobile application boasts localised speech technology such as speech recognition, machine translation, and text-to-speech developed by the CSIR and works on any android smartphone, which majority of ordinary citizens have access to. The app 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.
The app was originally developed with content related to maternal healthcare and obstetrics, but this has since been revised and enhanced to reflect COVID-19- related content. It is available for download from the Play Store at no cost for users.
To ensure it is fit for purpose, the developers of the app worked closely with health experts to support healthcare workers to communicate easily with patients at various healthcare facilities during Covid-19 related screening and triage.
Dr Karen Calteaux, CSIR Digital Audio-Visual Technologies Research Group Leader said when the communication barrier is bridged; the trust relationship between the healthcare provider and patient can be significantly improved. In addition, she said, the patient’s experience and the healthcare provider-patient confidentiality can be improved, and lives can possibly be saved.
“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,” said Dr Calteaux.
The application can be accessed for free here: http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=za.co.aweza.covid19. Or contact Dr Karen Calteaux: firstname.lastname@example.org.