Seimas continues to modernise: it will harness technology to make information more attractive and accessible to people with disabilities
Press release, 4 March 2021
Installing of the neural text-to-speech synthesis service to convert press releases and announcements published on the Seimas website into audio speech output is expected this spring. This option could not only attract people wishing to listen to information rather than read it, but also enable the visually impaired to follow and participate in Lithuania’s political life and learn relevant information first- hand. This initiative of the Office of the Seimas would contribute to equal opportunities and narrow the digital divide.
The neural text-to-speech synthesis as a technology adapted to serve the needs of the Seimas has been developed by scientists from Vytautas Magnus University. In addition to installing the text-to-speech application, the Office of the Seimas, in cooperation with the University, also plans to employ a single-language transcription tool developed by scientists and researchers of the University to convert audio records into text documents. This innovative tool has been developed in the framework of the project Semantika-2 (www.semantika.lt). The solutions of the project are open source and free of charge. Hence, they can be tested and used for individual needs by anyone who considers such services relevant. This technological tool could, inter alia, speed up video subtitling and simplify verbatim reporting of the sittings of the Seimas and meetings of the committees.
According to Paulius Saudargas, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas, by adopting the solutions developed by Lithuanian scientists, the Seimas will provide an opportunity for people to participate in public governance. ‘We have to fully exploit every opportunity to build awareness of parliamentary activities among the largest possible number of people in Lithuania and enable them to engage in the legislative process. The availability and openness of information is therefore our key goal, which can now be achieved with the help of the rapidly growing and evolving technology.’
‘Modernisation of parliamentary activities by adopting the project results shows that, in this particular case, too, national needs have been properly envisaged. Moreover, it perfectly illustrates that, with regard to technologies for the non-commercial Lithuanian language, unless the government itself takes responsibility for the state language, nobody else will offer their help with proper and timely solutions and this can impede modernisation of the public sector processes related to language technology’, – says Dr Darius Amilevičius, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Informatics at Vytautas Magnus University.
Currently, specialists of the Office of the Seimas have already started testing both tools. It is anticipated that in the spring session the Seimas will see the launch of the modern solutions that will further increase the openness of the Seimas to the public.
Information and Communication Department, Office of the Seimas,
tel. +370 5 239 6666, e-mail: [email protected]