Later this week, 7th August to be more precise, Higher Education and Science and Technology deputy minister Buti Manamela will open the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) in Potchefstroom, North West.

This new platform is aimed at creating and managing digital resources, along with software supporting research and development in language technologies and language-related studies in all of South Africa’s official languages.

A number of organisations have come together in order to make SADiLaR come to fruition, with SA News noting that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the University of South Africa, the University of Pretoria, and the Inter-institutional Centre for Language Development and Assessment are all partners.

North West University’s Potchefstroom campus will play host to the centre, with it being one of eight research infrastructures established through the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to date, under the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR).

The department explains that the development of SADiLaR began in 2016, with it currently having two programmes in place. The first is focused on digitisation and involves the creation of relevant digital text, speech and multi-modal resources related to the official languages. The second is looking at how appropriate natural language processing can be handled.

“So far it (SADiLaR) has benefited over a thousand students, and approximately 90 researchers and developers. This virtual infrastructure hosts a resource portal that provides a single point of entry with access to over 200 language resources and tools,” a department spokesperson told SA News.

“Fields of research include language, literary and heritage studies, history, music, sociology, journalism, philosophy, psychology, media studies, and visual and graphic art. In turn, the availability of large data sets facilitates the development of a variety of language technology applications for the public good,” they concluded.

As far as some of the goals that SADiLAR has in mind for the country’s digital footprint for languages, more detail will likely be outlined at the launch event later this week.

[Image – Photo by Pisit Heng]