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Dutch House of Representatives shares its experience of automatic speech recognition (ASR)

Innovation tracker | Issue 10 | 21 Oct 2021
The Netherlands

Parliamentary reporters at work (© House of Representatives, The Netherlands)

Since the virtual World e-Parliament Conference in June 2021, several parliaments have expressed an interest to learn more about innovations in other parliaments. And so, on 30 September 2021, the IPU Centre for Innovation in Parliament (CIP) held a knowledge exchange event with the Netherlands’ House of Representatives to discuss technologies for automatic speech recognition (ASR).

Mr Deru Schelhaas, Deputy Editor of the Dutch Parliamentary Reporting Office (PRO), showcased their ASR project, sharing results and lessons learned. The meeting was well-attended, including by staff from Hansard and parliamentary reporting offices, as well as parliamentary IT professionals. The 48 participants came from 44 parliaments or chambers in the Pacific, Asia, Middle East, Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America.


PRO started to look at speech-to-text solutions in 2016, with experiments that included live subtitling using Dragon software. Since 2017, they have been looking at ways to incorporate ASR into their work, working on the pilot project with Radboud University, Nijmegen.

The pilot automatically translates speech into text, a process that is followed by manual grammar and style editing. A key challenge was the amount of data, which included about 3,000 hours of MP3 debate recordings and XML-format reports.

The initial conclusion is that ASR can help, but is better in specific circumstances. Debate speeches are much easier to translate into text, for example. Meanwhile, the ASR-supported process is only marginally faster. It has also been difficult to embed the ASR programme into existing workflows, because mistakes still needed manual corrections. The next step is to look at solutions that could be developed by local universities, and to see what is available on the local market.

In five years, Mr Schelhaas expects ASR will be playing a larger role in parliamentary reporting, since the underlying business case is good. He thinks that ‘A quality’ reporting will be mostly done by humans, and ‘B quality’ would use ASR.