The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) has established the National Centre for HLT (Human Language Technology) to develop reusable text and speech resources, and the Resource Management Agency (RMA) to manage and distribute these from one central point.

The Centre for Text Technology (CTexT) at the North-West University has been appointed to set up the RMA over the next three years.

Researchers and developers will soon be able to obtain (and provide) data more easily, saving a great deal of valuable time. As many of the South African languages are deemed resource scarce, the RMA aspires to make data resources for these languages more readily available. Mother-tongue speakers of South African languages will benefit greatly, as they could soon see new breakthroughs in health-care communication, educational software or business tools – all because language technology data, which is the backbone of these developments, will be easier to obtain.

“The establishment of the RMA is the realisation of a vision to develop and administer language resources for all South African languages on a global scale. The RMA will facilitate the development and promotion of the official languages of South Africa and the enhancement of the linguistic diversity of the country. This puts us one step closer to achieving the ideal of more smartphone applications, literacy tools, translation software and other developments in as many South African languages as possible,” says Martin Puttkammer, Head of CTexT.

“The NWU through CTexT has since 2007 been one of our dependable language technology implementation agencies and as such we are confident that in this endeavour too it will assist us in the execution of our strategy, to the benefit of all role-players in this domain and ultimately the general public. For us, the goal is for South Africans to increasingly gain access to information and services in their languages of choice and language technology plays a vital role in this regard,” says Ulrike Janke, HLT Director at the DAC.

The RMA will be based at CTexT at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University. The Dutch TST-Centrale will be collaborating on the project.