VarsityGenie, a student leadership platform recently hosted its first virtual sign-language webinar to inspire and enrich the deaf community through technology-based skills via Microsoft Teams.
VarsityGenie is the brainchild of the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Masters student Fanie Ndlovu, who is fervent about developing the skills of young people in communities and townships.
“Our aim since its establishment is to equip all types of students with skills that will make them employable in the current economy. We have trained students in new technologies such as Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) which are heavily adopted by industry,” said Ndlovu.
Ndlovu also works closely with the high-tech giants, Google and Microsoft, that define technologies and influence design methodologies that almost everyone uses, giving him an edge to deliver a competitive advantage knowledge to the audience or participants that enable them to prosper in the digital space.
Speaking more on the aim of such a webinar, which was led by Deaf students from DUT and of the University of Free State (UFS); Ndlovu indicated that 90% of the training, workshops, events that focuses on Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) excluded deaf people.
He stressed that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there are 466 million people throughout the world that live with disabling hearing loss, which links to more than 5% of the world’s population.
“This leaves them in unfortunately position of not getting job opportunities that require 4IR skills and again as 4IR has huge potential to address challenges faced by deaf people but the fact they are excluded, the 4IR tools won’t be utilised to design solutions that address their problems,” he said.
At the webinar, student speakers Rethabile Mphooso (DUT ICT) and Nobuhle Maseko (UFS), relayed their personal experiences of living with a hearing disability, as well as the opportunities AI can deliver to the deaf community.
DUT’s Mphooso chatted about the possibility of chatbot AI which can potentially be used to create apps that make conversations between deaf people and those who can hear.
Adding to the online conversation, Maseko, a member of Femicious deaf Girls and final-year industrial psychology student at UFS; explained more on the daily challenges she faces living with a hearing disability and how artificial intelligence can help other hearing-disabled individuals.
“The main aim of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) is to break down the communication barrier that deaf people face by using technology to make our lives easier,” she said.
Ndlovu said the virtual webinar was the first step to make sure deaf people are also equipped with necessary skills that will ensure they also obtain 4IR job opportunities and have skills to design solutions using 4IR technologies like Artificial Intelligence to solve challenges they face daily.
To find out more on VarsityGenie, go to : www.varsitygenie.co.za.
Pictured: Students participating in the first virtual sign-language webinar.