Innovative Practice 2021 on Inclusive Employment and ICT

Sign language relay service with a successful scaling strategy

DeafTawk is a for-profit start-up technology company based in Islamabad, Pakistan. It has developed a mobile application that connects deaf users with certified sign language interpreters in real time through video calling, used by individuals and businesses. Available on both IOS and Android platforms, DeafTawk has now been replicated in Singapore. Between 2018 and 2020 it has provided 94,000 hours of sign language interpretation to some 18,000 users across both countries.

“Through DeafTawk I can now easily narrate my words and feel empowered to be part of society.”

Maria Ziaa DeafTawk user
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:DeafTawk
Organisation:DeafTawk
Country
of Implementation
Pakistan, Singapore
Start Year2018
Sub-CategoryA practice from the Business Sector

FACTS & FIGURES

  • As of November 2020, DeafTawk employed 1,100 sign language interpreters, growing 35 per cent compared to 2019
  • Over 500 users found employment using DeafTawk in job interviews

PROBLEMS TARGETED

The general public is largely unfamiliar with sign language and there are shortages of qualified sign language interpreters.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

Through the DeafTawk app, users can either choose ‘book now’ for instant interpretation via a video call, or ‘book later’ to schedule a specific time. With this option, users can specify the purpose of the call and choose an interpreter with relevant expertise. The service is available 24/7 for individuals, businesses, and institutions (e.g., educational institutes and hospitals). Organizations can book interpreters online and are matched to subject experts. Between 2018 and 2020, DeafTawk provided approximately 94,000 hours of interpretation in Pakistan and Singapore. Through the service more than 500 deaf users have gained employment and 79 have been enrolled in higher education.

DeafTawk employs over 1,100 interpreters and offers services in ten languages. To work with DeafTawk, interpreters must have at least two years’ experience and undergo a three-day training workshop. Interpreters are based online and can work anytime, anywhere per their availability.

A man stands behind the counter at a coffee shop and holds a tablet displaying the DeafTawk app to a woman on the other side of the counter.

A deaf woman uses DeafTawk to place her order at a coffee shop.

FUNDING, OUTLOOK AND TRANSFERABILITY

DeafTawk’s revenue from July 2019 to June 2020 was US$175,000. US$110,000 came from monthly subscriptions from businesses and institutions offering the service. The remaining US$65,000 was from on-demand services offered to individual users.

After expanding in Pakistan following a pilot, DeafTawk launched in Singapore in partnership with SG Enable and Enterprise SG, and with funding from Accelerating Asia. It aims to further expand in Asia, with a target of three additional countries in the next five years. DeafTawk is currently looking to launch an Artificial Intelligence feature to translate into 26 languages and is also improving the app’s machine learning functionality.

FACTSHEET

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LINKS AND FURTHER READING