RSI and Parliamentary Voting: What Do They Have in Common?
Remote simultaneous interpreting has experienced a boom since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations of all types turn to RSI platforms to deliver a multilingual experience for virtual or hybrid in-person and online meetings. Likewise, online voting solutions are in high demand for organizations that need a sophisticated virtual voting mechanism when they want to enable remote work for elected officials or other decision-makers.
From a development standpoint, RSI and voting go hand-in-hand because legislative bodies must comply with strict regulations tied to both. Governmental bodies in Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and other countries as well as international organizations such as the European Union and United Nations have mandates to communicate in a specific set of languages, and that requires special technology to enable listening to the interpretation of a session. Yet being able to meet online in multiple languages is not enough for all of these teams to be able to work from home. They must abide by a controlled voting process, reserved strictly for meeting participants who have permission to vote – and excluding other staff that may sit in on the sessions. To top it off, this must happen in a highly secure environment. Not surprisingly, this need has pushed some tech vendors to step up their game and merge RSI and voting into their meeting platforms.
The State of RSI at Public Institutions
Public institutions had been slow at adapting to RSI technology because of security concerns, insufficient range of functionality, and pushback from interpreters. However, many are now giving remote interpreting solutions a chance, driven by the move to virtual meetings and the requirement to limit the exposure of interpreters to contaminants.
In a May 2020 survey that CSA Research conducted with 26 heads of interpreting services at public institutions from around the globe, 42% of respondents told us they are using a virtual conferencing technology that was not designed for the delivery of simultaneous interpreting – for example, GoToMeeting or Skype. Zoom was particularly popular thanks to its built-in RSI functionality, which despite its limitations when compared to specialized products, makes it a viable option for many institutions. The problem is that the usability of mainstream conferencing solutions isn’t optimal for interpreting content and more than two-thirds of respondents (70%) said they will eventually adopt a specialized RSI platform. RSI products offer a broader range of interpreting features and functions than standard conferencing tools do. However, they require users to adapt to a different platform or for the system to integrate to a mainstream technology.
That is why two new developments in the RSI world are worth mentioning – Webex and KUDO. Cisco’s Webex is a popular conferencing platform that developed a special version of its solution with both rich voting features and adequate RSI capabilities. RSI-provider KUDO is fighting back with the addition of parliamentary-style voting capabilities to its conferencing and interpreting platform. Let’s examine the two approaches.
The Newcomer to the RSI Market: Webex Legislate
Cisco partnered with IoT platform developer Davra to develop an extension to the Webex Teams platform designed specifically for legislative bodies so it can handle virtual and hybrid meetings with voting. Ned Cabot, Cisco’s Director of Country Digital Integrations for the Americas commented that “Cisco wanted to step up to meet the needs of democracy in the context of COVID limitations.”
In fleshing out the minimum requirements for a viable product to meet the discussion expectations of their clients, Cisco soon realized that RSI capabilities were a must from the start. Brian McGlynn, Product Manager at Davra explained that “Originally, interpreting wasn’t a key requirement, but it gained in importance when we talked to potential customers.”
The resulting solution, called Webex Legislate offers a depth of voting functionalities along with RSI capabilities:
- Extensive voting functionalities. Because the platform was developed with parliamentary-style voting in mind, it provides all the bells and whistles its legislative focus groups came up with. Meeting participants enter through a virtual lobby where a host can visually verify their identity. When polling time comes, organizers can set up the voting to be auditable/not auditable and public/secret. The system also allows huddle rooms where discussions can occur to try and steer a vote change. At the end, the system can present results with a breakdown by party or other attributes. Voting is conducted in the official language of the event.
- Strong beginning to language support. Webex Legislate includes built-in features to offer simultaneous interpreting for both spoken and sign languages. It also offers the ability to add live human captioners to support inclusive experiences. The system converts breakout rooms dedicated to a language into interpreting rooms that can accommodate up to 200 people each. The interpreter functionality remains basic – for example, in the default setup, the interpreter needs to hold the space bar when talking, must use the chat to initiate a handover to their booth partner, and is unable to see that partner on video. However, unlike Zoom, it has built relay interpreting capabilities into the platform.
To get started, you need a Webex Teams license that you upgrade with the Webex Legislate module, which incurs extra fees based on number of voters and languages. Despite the very recent launch, Cisco and Davra already received interest to extend the RSI capabilities to its regular platform. McGlynn admitted, “We went into this without realizing the potential of RSI.” While neither Cisco nor Davra could confirm plans, it is fair to assume the company will expand the use of the new features – the big question is when.
Webex Legislate Language Preference Setup via the Participant Avatar
Webex Legislate Interpreter Console
An RSI Market Leader Beefing Up Voting Skills: KUDO
KUDO is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) company with a multilingual web conferencing platform. Its core target market is multilingual international organizations and governmental bodies. VP of Client Success, Barry Slaughter Olsen commented: “KUDO recognized very early on the importance of secure voting and polling to our clients.” That’s why the company sought to expand on features beyond language support to support more virtual and hybrid meeting types.
- Strong RSI capabilities. KUDO developed a multilingual meeting platform that is well-designed from the client, presenter, interpreter, and attendee perspectives. It includes an impressive list of functionalities and keeps adding new ones. Our recent report on “Remote Simultaneous Interpreting Platforms“ contains a detailed profile of KUDO’s RSI capabilities.
- Enhanced voting solution. While KUDO already had basic voting capabilities, the new additions to the platform extends them significantly. Olsen indicated that, “We developed secure parliamentary-style voting (yes, no, abstain) and multiple-choice polling as an integral part of our multilingual virtual meeting platform. And we continue to introduce enhanced features like a lobby feature, the assigning of voting rights, the ability to add weights to votes from specific participants, and real-time roll-call voting.” The new functionalities involve a secure access to the platform via a PIN and single sign-on (SSO) technology to restrict voting to specific roles. Participants get to see aggregated vote results and administrators the nominative results. Just like Webex Legislate, polls appear in the official language, but Olsen recommended to simply project the translation on a slide deck to support multilingual needs.
The enhanced voting feature is available at no extra cost to those organizations that have a KUDO subscription. This new development is part of a long series of recent innovations such as a portable hard console for interpreters and high-fidelity full-band audio quality that provides sound quality comparable – if not better – to what they would receive in a professional booth equipped with high-end consoles and headsets.
Kudo’s Participant Poll Window
Kudo’s Vote Name List Showing Detailed Voting Results
Why Does It Matter?
Multiple RSI platforms already have the built-in ability to run polls or are working on developing this function. However, there is a difference between basic polling and parliamentary-style capabilities. Providers like KUDO that enhance their product to handle more complex meeting needs are working hard to be able to compete in the event format required by international organizations and government bodies. This capability is vital to stay in the running when solutions like Webex Legislate threaten to disrupt the RSI market from a different angle. Webex has been a leader in teleconferencing but Zoom has overshadowed it for several years. With its specialized platform, Cisco is now reviving itself thanks to both parliamentary-style voting and integrated multilingual support.
The RSI market is still evolving. It’s no longer about just providing an environment to deliver language services but also supporting virtual and hybrid environments that deliver all the tools needed to work efficiently in interactive sessions. Mainstream conferencing platforms have an advantage when it comes to brand-name recognition and infrastructure to support their solutions. However, most clients will still need more than the technology: Specialist companies will still find a role to play in delivering the right talent, trained to use the technology, for the meetings.
Finally, we want to mention a new RSI platform on the market called Inhere, which was developed by China-based Sichuan Lan-Bridge Information Tech Co. The platform is designed to address English <> Chinese conferences for government institutions and event organizers. It offers both human and machine interpreting. While this remains a very new solution, the big evolution to notice is the development of market-specific applications by mainstream language service providers. We expect to see further similar developments as LSPs try to leverage the RSI opportunity.
Inhere from Sichuan Lan-Bridge Deployed for an In-Person Event
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