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NGO Project Will Allow Local Gov't to Use Voice Recognition Instead of Transcribers

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, September 13 2012

In the United Kingdom, local governments do not take minutes of their meetings because they lack the funds to pay a transcriber. The practice, called Hansard, "has a huge impact on the successful functioning of parliament," writes Tom Steinberg, founder and director of the U.K. transparency organization mySociety.

Steinberg is poised to launch a project that aims to give local governments the ability to maintain written records of their meetings with a combination of technology and volunteerism. The idea, he writes,

...to develop software that uses off-the-shelf voice recognition technologies to produce rough drafts of transcripts that can then be edited and published through a web browser. Our role will not be in working on the voice recognition itself, but rather on making the whole experience of setting out to record, transcribe and publish a speech or session as easy, fast and enjoyable as possible. And we will build tools to make browsing and sharing the data as nice as we know how.

Until the software can be developed, though, Steinberg is calling upon volunteers to pick up the slack.

But mySociety cannot ourselves go to all these meetings. And it appears exceptionally unlikely that councils will want to pay for official transcribers at this point in history. So what we’re asking today is for interest from individuals – inside or outside councils – willing to have a go at transcribing meetings as we develop the software.

It's well worth reading the entire post for its insight on technology, best practices for a functioning democracy, and volunteerism.

Personal Democracy Media is thankful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.