Critical issues presentations/Have you heard about it? Wikispeech – Breaching the text barrier

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Submission no. 117
Title of the submission

Have you heard about it? Wikispeech – Breaching the text barrier

Author of the submission
  • John Andersson
  • André Costa
Country of origin

Sweden; Sweden

Topics

Projects, Technical

Keywords
  • Accessibility
  • Text-to-speech
  • i18n
  • languages
  • New extensions
  • New users
  • Projects 2016
  • Projects 2017
Abstract

Have you heard about it? Wikispeech – Breaching the text barrier

This talk addresses the question of accessibility to Wikimedia projects for the hundreds of millions of people that have limited reading abilities. This is a critical issue that so far has gain rather limited attention. Wikispeech is a project that hope to be part of the solution and we would like to tell you about the issues we are trying to solve, what we believe need to be done, and how you can get involved.

The goal of the Wikimedia Movement is to reach as many people as possible with as much high qualitative freely licensed information as possible. Thanks to the incredibly fast spread of smartphones and other technical, business and societal solutions millions of new people gain access to Internet every year. This has lead to an amazing opportunity to reach new users with important information through Wikimedia platforms. However, even though many of the least educated and people with certain disabilities now have access to Internet, they might still have a very hard time taking advantage of this opportunity. This is because most of the information is only available in text. Hence, many of the persons that really need access to free information and knowledge are again left out. New solutions are needed.

On top of these potential users there are approximately 25% of the population that, regardless of their ability to read, find it easier to learn from spoken text. 25% of the readers of Wikipedia would mean that approximately 115-125 million people would benefit from a solution in the long run. There are also many occasions where people want to multi-task and e.g. listening to an article while driving.

Wikispeech is a text-to-speech solution that, through a 300,000 USD external grant from the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority to Wikimedia Sverige, will be developed during 2016‒2017. The aim is to make it possible for more people to use Wikimedia projects. The goal is to have Wikispeech as a MediaWiki extension that works as a server side solution, so that anyone can use it without having to download anything (something that might not be possible if you are only borrowing the device used to access the Internet). All components will of course be open source so that the work also can be included on other platforms.

A central part of the Wikispeech extension is that it will be built in a scalable way which can be improved by the community. It will be possible for an interested user to add more languages. Anyone interested can also help to make the text-to-speech work better by improving the lexicon with new words, pointing out mistakes and so forth. During the presentation you will learn how you can help and get an opportunity to share your initial thoughts.

What problem will the project solve? What will still be left unsolved? What are the ideas to date? What will happen in the future? These are some of the questions that will be answered during the presentation.

Result

Not accepted without fault (a prior submission from the same author(s) was accepted)