Tynwald voice recognition system attracts Westminster interest

| May 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
Head of Hansard Ellen Callister with the House of Commons’ Tim Youngs, (seated), Alex Newton and Jack Homer. Picture Paul Dougherty, Tynwald Seneschal

Tynwald’s innovative voice recognition system has attracted interest from the House of Commons Hansard team.

House of Commons Hansard deputy editor Alex Newton and colleague Jack Homer, together with Tim Youngs from Westminster’s parliamentary information and communications technology division, spent 36 hours in the Island during which they met with Tynwald Head of Hansard Ellen Callister and her team to observe the pioneering transcription system in operation in the Tynwald Chambers and learn more about the Manx parliament’s Hansard production methods and its work with other jurisdictions, the Tynwald website and use of online communication channels.

Mr Newton said: ‘The visit proved extremely useful, in particular the opportunity to see first-hand how the voice recognition system functions in the Chambers.’

Mr Youngs said: ‘We have carried out some voice recognition trials in Westminster so it has been a very positive experience to see best practice in operation in the Isle of Man.’ He went on to say that with some 650 Commons Members, no fixed seating and only 80 microphones, introducing a similar system for the floor of the House of Commons would not be without its challenges, but added: ‘As a medium-term objective, though, the system might be suitable for some forums, such as select committees, in smaller, more defined areas.’

Tynwald’s website and Twitter feed also came in for praise. Mr Newton said: ‘The website is very neat with an excellent landing page and extremely comprehensive contents, in particular Hansard reports that go back to 1887. It also was interesting to see how Twitter was used not in intervals but for real-time “as it happens” reporting during sittings.’

Mr Homer observed: ‘As the availability of shorthand skills declines capturing what is being said in Parliament using voice recognition software is all the more important today. It has also been interesting to learn how commendably adaptable the comparatively small Tynwald Hansard and Information Service teams are. Their reach is most impressive.’

Tynwald’s head of Hansard Ellen Callister said: ‘Meeting the Westminster team proved to be a very worthwhile and mutually beneficial sharing of ideas. They left with some really useful information, not only about our voice recognition system, but also about all our working practices, in terms of Hansard production, website, listen live/again, Twitter feed and about how new ideas can be more easily trialled in a small team environment.

‘In turn we benefited from having their outside perspective and hearing about some of their IT systems and working practices. This has given me some new ideas on working processes that I should like to trial with my team. What also emerged from our discussions with Alex, Jack and Tim was that they identified certain areas of undeveloped potential in our voice recognition system which previously we had not fully realised, so we shall be looking to build on those particular strengths in the future.’

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Category: Editor's Choice

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