Go to Menu
Celebrating 25 Years of Voice! 🎉

Western Cape Government

The Western Cape Government website chose ReadSpeaker webReader to improve digital inclusion. Learn why in this case study.

The Challenge

  • Supporting inclusion, connection, and participation for users of the Western Cape Government website.
  • Communicating effectively with a highly diverse audience that includes nearly a dozen language groups.

The Solution

  • With the webReader TTS tool available on the Western Cape website, users can consume content by reading, listening, or both.
  • People are using the tool in high numbers, as evidenced by spikes of up to 60,000 sessions following important government addresses and document releases.


Enhancing Digital Inclusion With Text to Speech


“The main reason we chose ReadSpeaker TTS is that we realized we needed to improve usability and accessibility on our site.”
—Luqmaan Essa, UX Team Lead, Western Cape Government


The South African province of Western Cape is home to 7 million people with a remarkable diversity of languages, reading proficiencies, disability statuses, educational levels, and access to resources.

A map to show where Western Cape is located in Africa

How can a single website deliver vital provincial content to such a varied audience?

The answer starts with inclusive design, said Luqmaan Essa, UX Team Lead for the Western Cape Government website.

“The way we include people is to provide as many possible ways for them to access, absorb, and share site content,” Essa said. “That fosters connection, which leads to participation.”

Text to speech (TTS) has become a valuable tool for improving digital accessibility on the Western Cape website. Here’s how the site’s UX team discovered the need for TTS—and began a partnership with ReadSpeaker that’s been connecting Western Cape’s government with its people since 2012.

“From a government perspective, we need to consider how we expose, share, and provide services for a very diverse audience. Text to speech broadens accessibility for these diverse audiences.”
-Luqmaan Essa


Discovering the Need for Text to Speech


The Western Cape UX team is part of a provincial directorate—eGovernment for Citizens, or e-G4C—that manages multiple communication channels. These include the website, a contact center, and a network of internet-access facilities previously called Cape Access eCentres, now known as the WCG eCentres.

Western Cape student buildings

The e-G4C team discovered the value of TTS not through website analytics, as you might expect, but through conversations with the people who use eCentres.

TTS for Literacy Support Across Languages


Researchers from e-G4C conducted interviews, focus groups, and usability studies at rural eCentres. That research produced insights about how people interact with digital government resources, Essa said.

“One of the interesting things we found is that our audiences who don’t have English as their first language—that would be isiXhosa or Afrikaans—they might understand spoken English, but not be able to read English,” Essa said. “That led us to considering ReadSpeaker’s webReader.”

Text to speech is a simple and effective way to make your website speak. It instantly expands access for people who understand spoken, but not written, language. As e-G4C continued its research, it uncovered the benefits of TTS for other Western Cape citizens, as well.

TTS and Digital Inclusion for People with Disabilities


When the e-G4C team conducted accessibility tests, they found that TTS could remove barriers for site visitors with disabilities. The option to listen rather than read expands access for people with vision impairments, reading disorders, ADHD, and developmental disabilities, for example.

Researchers at e-G4C also considered one argument against TTS on the website: Many people with vision impairments already have access to assistive technology (AT) like screen readers. These users don’t need on-site TTS, the argument goes, because they already get the service from their own devices.

The e-G4C team concluded that TTS provided benefits even for these users, however. In parts of Western Cape, screen readers may only be available in certain locations or at certain times. More importantly, “not everybody has AT software,” Essa said. “And not everybody has the same disability.”

A website TTS tool is always there to help, for any reason.


“We know a lot of our users with vision impairments use their own preferred screen reader software. But when these tools aren’t available, TTS helps our users with vision impairments as well as other disabilities.”
—Luqmaan Essa


With the research complete, the UX team was convinced that TTS would broaden access for audiences with disabilities, low literacy, and first languages other than the site’s predominant English. But which TTS tool should they use?

Choosing ReadSpeaker’s webReader


ReadSpeaker’s webReader tool stood out from the competition. It was easy to integrate through the cloud. It met the province’s pricing requirements. Its South African TTS voices were warm and lifelike. But two particular features made webReader the clear choice for Western Cape’s accessibility needs.

First, webReader offers reading focus tools like simultaneous speech and highlighting in addition to top-quality TTS. Secondly, ReadSpeaker offers ongoing pronunciation support to ensure that every TTS utterance sounds recognizable to a South African audience.

WebReader of Readspeaker playing

Top-quality TTS voices, accurate pronunciation, and reading focus tools make ReadSpeaker webReader ideal for the Western Cape Government site. Every year, uses of webReader spike by tens of thousands of sessions following the release of important government information.


Site visitors who rely on listening to understand English may struggle with improper pronunciation or unfamiliar accents. These weren’t a problem with ReadSpeaker. The TTS leader offers multiple voices with South African accents, as well as a custom pronunciation dictionary for local terms, government jargon, or unavoidable acronyms.

“ReadSpeaker helped us improve the way certain words were pronounced, which can be very important for our users. That was a key benefit.”
—Luqmaan Essa


Next Steps for TTS on the Western Cape Government Website


As we publish, the Western Cape Government site is all in English, the main—but far from only—spoken language in the province. The UX team is researching possibilities for content personalization, including the option to read in isiXhosa or Afrikaans.

If and when the site becomes multilingual, webReader will be ready with TTS voices in isiXhosa, Afrikaans, and other South African languages. ReadSpeaker partnered with South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to bring nearly a dozen indigenous South African languages to ReadSpeaker TTS solutions.

The Western Cape Government site with the webReader on it

In the meantime, webReader is helping Western Cape citizens connect to government news and services. The value of this tool is apparent each spring, when the Western Cape Premier releases the yearly budget and a State of the Province report.

Every year, uses of webReader spike by tens of thousands of sessions following the release of information. That’s good news for provincial engagement—and e-G4C’s core principles of inclusion, connection, and participation.

“As a government, we offer services that should make a difference in people’s lives, so we need tools that give more ways for people to access our information. That’s the leading reason why we implemented webReader.”
—Luqmaan Essa


An Interview With Luqmaan Essa of the Western Cape Government


Q. Tell us a bit about the Western Cape Government website.

A. We consider ourselves the front face of the government, and we get a lot of our insights from our contacts. We can see what information people are asking for and we learn a lot about our users’ demographics.

We have quite a diverse audience in Western Cape. I’m talking not just about race and class, but also languages and literacy. And we know a lot of our audiences can’t necessarily read English, but they can understand it when it’s spoken. Text to speech gives them the option to listen to website content. That was one thing that led us to working with ReadSpeaker.

Q. Why did you decide to introduce text-to-speech (TTS) to the Western Cape Government website?

A. In 2011 we started looking at improving and updating the WCG website. We started asking, “How do we improve accessibility? How do we improve the experience for our citizens?”

We did quite a bit of research and evaluation going through the site, and one of the items that came up is that we needed more accessibility tools for diverse users. People don’t use TTS just because they’re vision impaired. One of our strongest use cases was people using TTS for literacy reasons.

The main reason we got TTS is that we were revamping the website and we realized we needed to improve usability and, of course, address accessibility.

Q. After you committed to bringing a TTS tool to your site, why did you choose ReadSpeaker?

A. Currently, in South Africa versus internationally, a lot of our dialect is very similar to the way the English would pronounce it in England. But there are also quite a few words that we pronounce in our own way.

When we came to ReadSpeaker with a list of words we wanted pronounced a certain way, ReadSpeaker addressed the way the TTS pronounced these words. That was a key item.

Q. What kind of user feedback have you gotten about webReader?

A. In earlier stages of the project, we did a lot of usability studies. Those tests turned up positive feedback on webReader. What we also noticed is that there’s an influx of webReader usage when we upload our State of the Province speech, the annual budget or needed services that happen periodically.

The State of the Province is when our Premier addresses problems and explains what we’re doing for the year from an administration perspective, including key projects. It’s quite a big deal, and we noticed a high influx in people using webReader to listen and understand these kinds of addresses and more difficult documents.

Q. What advice would you give other government site administrators considering a TTS implementation?

A. Do the user research. Understand the audience, and understand the benefits of TTS. For us, we needed to provide more ways for people to access content, and ReadSpeaker’s TTS helps to create that inclusion and participation we were looking for.

Start using Text to Speech today

Make your products more engaging with our voice solutions.

Contact us