Lightning in a Hansard bottle

Some of the technology team that brings the Hansard online in Trinidad & Tobago

When we built the Hansard Speaks chatbot in 2017, I was super excited and told all my friends about it. One of them now works in IT at the Parliament and he invited me to talk with the team about it.

At the brief talk, I spoke about the motivations for building the chatbot, how we thought it was a great way to win arguments about who said what in Parliament, and that we liked how easy it was to bring an automated conversational experience into that world.

I think the team at the Parliament does a great job. I’ve always liked that they were among the early movers to bringing Internet technology into governance. They’ve been online for a long time, they make copies of the Hansard available on their site and they stream proceedings. They’re also on Twitter and are pretty active.

We spoke about how much Hansard Speaks leverages cloud technology and the fact that though the government is progressing, the policy on public cloud means that they have to find ways to use on-prem tech to accomplish similar functionality. HS uses the Microsoft Bot Framework, Azure Media Services and Azure App Services. If they wanted to do that off the cloud, they could but it would just be a bit harder.

I’d love if they shared more about what they do, in terms of all the teams that go in to making the Hansard come alive. There’s a real production team around ensuring those documents get generated and that the parliament team can handle requests that come down from MPs about who said what, when.

Since it’s been two years after we first did the chatbot, I described to them one key change we might make if we were doing it again. We would use a tool like Video Indexer on the videos they create.

Video Indexer’s insights on a Parliament video from Trinidad and Tobago.

It would let us do more than simply get a transcript, as we would then be able to get information on who said what, and how much they contributed to a session. We would be able to get key topics that were discussed.

So, it was great to speak with some of the guys behind the Hansard and share with them ideas on services they can leverage to make their offering even more compelling, insightful and relevant.

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