A University of Pretoria (UP) professor has been awarded the African Academy of Sciences’ (AAS) prize for his innovative research in tele-health and mobile health.
Daniël Christiaan de Wet Swanepoel, of the department of speech-language pathology and audiology of the humanities faculty, won the 2020 Olusegun Obasanjo Prize for scientific breakthrough.
He is the third South African to win this award and will receive a prize of about R75 000.
“It is an honour to receive this prestigious award; it serves as further inspiration to see access to healthy hearing become a reality for every African,” Swanepoel said.
Swanepoel has collaborated on and conducted several research studies on using smartphone technologies to provide equitable access to hearing healthcare services, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
He said four years ago, his team developed a world-first smartphone app called hearZA, which enabled people to test their hearing within three minutes.
“If hearing loss is detected, the app recommends the nearest audiologist.
“The app’s accuracy to identify hearing loss exceeds 90% and generates a personal profile, allowing users to track their hearing ability over time,” Swanepoel.
UP vice-chancellor and principal Professor Tawana Kupe said the university prided itself on having a driven researcher of Prof Swanepoel’s calibre.
“The University of Pretoria is proud of the innovation that Prof Swanepoel has driven throughout his career. His work has tapped into disciplines beyond his own, and his trans-disciplinary initiatives prove that determination, and indeed our humanity, knows no bounds.”
Kupe said this award was a singular honour, and that he was delighted that the AAS had chosen to bestow the award on such a deserving colleague.
“My heartfelt congratulations to you, Prof Swanepoel!”
The AAS awards, named after former Nigerian president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, occur every two years, to honour African scientists who have made outstanding contributions in scientific discovery or technological innovation.
Winners automatically become Fellows of the AAS as individuals who have reached the highest level of excellence in their field of expertise and have made contributions to the advancement of the field on the African continent.
President of the AAS Professor Felix Dapare Dakora congratulated Swanepoel for achieving this feat.
“This award is a testament to his ingenuity in audiology and his dedication to improving the quality of life of Africans suffering from hearing impairment. As I extend my congratulations to him, I also welcome him to our growing membership of Fellows.”
Dean of the humanities faculty Prof Vasu Reddy said Prof Swanepoel’s compassion motivated him to come up with practical solutions for challenging problems.
“This is a truly momentous achievement for Prof Swanepoel, and recognises the groundbreaking work he has developed throughout his career,” he said.
“His compassion for people who live with impaired hearing but cannot necessarily afford expensive treatment has driven him to find solutions that are both affordable and accessible. The faculty of humanities is proud of his achievements and on its behalf, I offer Prof Swanepoel sincere congratulations.”
The prize was presented to Prof Swanepoel at the 12th AAS General Assembly, which took place virtually from 7 to 9 December, and was co-hosted with the British University in Egypt.