As of this autumn, the Riigikogu (the Estonian parliament) is using a new system to prepare verbatim reports of its sittings. According to the representative of the Estonian IT company Finestmedia who developed the system, the solution, which is based on speech recognition technology, has great export potential and could prove to be a useful tool for other public and private organisations.
The system is called Hans and uses speech recognition technology created at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) to perform the time-consuming work of stenographers. The system records the debates taking place in the Riigikogu as sound files, which the speech recognition software then transcribes. After this, editors revise the text, which is finally published on the Riigikogu website.
The Parliament may be but does not have to be the most innovative institution in the country. However, parliaments are often the most open and visited institutions in their respective countries, and here, the innovative IT-solutions may be of great help. I am glad that Riigikogu has taken a bold technological step into the future with the help of Finestmedia and TalTech by making the Chancellery’s operations more efficient and helping us better introduce the activities of Riigikogu to the public. I am certain that what we have done so far is only the beginning.Ahto Saks, Administrative Director at the Chancellery of the Riigikogu
Finestmedia’s Head of Division Lauri Esko says that creating the verbatim report system was an exciting challenge for the company, as the technological solutions provided by the different parties involved were able to be inventively integrated to see how the resulting synergy brought about major developments.
“We’ve created a solution that has much wider potential than just the use it’s being put to at the moment,” he said. “Systems utilising speech recognition can be very effective tools in the work of courts, prisons and the police, but also in health care, research and journalism, where writing things down and producing detailed reports of conversations is an unavoidable necessity.” Esko added that the solution had great export potential. “We’ve already introduced Hans to delegations from several countries who are interested in using it to start writing the success story of their e-governance,” he said.
According to Ahto Saks, the Administrative Director of the Chancellery of the Riigikogu, the development of the system has taken two years from idea to introduction, and improvements are ongoing. “To start with, Hans will be producing verbatim records of Riigikogu sittings and Question Time,” he explained. “But there are plans to use the system in the work of committees in the future as well.”
Tanel Alumäe, the head of the Laboratory of Language Technology at Tallinn University of Technology, says the new system shows how modern technology can help make routine work more effective.
“We’ve been actively working on speech recognition for 15 years, and Estonian systems are currently being used by radiologists, researchers and journalists,” he said. “Web-based speech recognition is freely available to everyone on the tekstiks.ee site as well. Estonian might be a small language, but the technology based on it is at a really high level!” Globally, speech recognition is widely used with larger languages.
The Riigikogu is the parliament of Estonia. Its 101 members are elected at general elections for a term of four years. The Riigikogu passes laws and resolutions, exercises parliamentary supervision and ratifies international agreements.
The Chancellery of the Riigikogu provides the conditions that enable the Riigikogu to perform its constitutional functions. It involves advising the Riigikogu, its members and working bodies, providing all necessary services to the Riigikogu and managing its internal communication and foreign relations, and also serving the National Electoral Committee, etc.
Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) is leading Estonia and the world towards a sustainable digital future with confidence. As a leader in science, technology, and innovation, the school maintains constant interaction with universities around the world, bringing together scientists, students, and entrepreneurs. TalTech is also the most international university in Estonia. Of the nearly 10,000 enrolled students, approximately 16% come from more than 100 different countries across the globe.