Pius Onana - Tanzania


Intersteno Congress - Vienna July 2005

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s my pleasure and honour to officially join the professionals of transcription and… in fact, I have been following Intersteno community since its 42nd Congress that took place in Lausanne in 1998, in a move to build up interest in partnership in the transfer of technology, and to bring hope to Africa which is facing unemployment among other scourges.

In collaboration with the Stenotype Grandjean, I used to work with parliaments, enterprises and international organizations to offer part-time training to their staff. This training had considerable advantages and met the expectations of these entities in building capacity, the interest in a job well done and the improvement of productivity.  I am a partner of this training centre which is the only one in the continent to offer training in both French, Spanish and English languages. Sometimes, the training was sponsored by partners of the international community. 

The Lausanne congress reinforced in me the initiative to introduce verbatim reporting techniques which I consider a good instrument to building capacities. I already identified the need of adequate training institutions in reporting without which nothing could be done. Then, with my teaching experience from Stenotype Grandjean, I opened a small training centre, Africa Script. This training center faced some difficulties: I was the only trainer and I was working as parliament verbatim reporter in national assembly at the same time. Apart from that, the power of purchase of the people could not allow trainees or their family to pay the training fees. Then, I sent prospecting letters to enterprises to explain the need and relevance to train their staff. Three months later, Africa Script had signed agreements with three local enterprises. I also decided to contact parliaments and international organizations and this received a good echo and, one more, Africa Script signed training agreements with parliaments and an international bank. Many negotiations are still pending due to my unavailability. It became necessary to train teachers, this was another fact I experienced with the help of Stenotype Grandjean. I introduced the “earn and learn” policy which is, I think, the best way to help the youths fight unemployment.

It is my pleasure to share my experience gained in Africa in reporting activities, which, I hope, can increase job opportunities in the continent and successfully contribute, among others, to reduce immigration to more developed countries.

But, I had other reasons for having left my country, the first being the need to have the means to build adequate premises for the training centre. Then, I joined the UN-International criminal tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, where I’m currently working with five of my former trainees as court reporter using the Grandjean stenotyping method and software (TASF and stenovox). The centre now has its building, but I’m still experiencing the increasing involvement of court reporting proceedings in an international environment.

At the beginning, court reporting was not very well known in the UN tribunals, and producing daily transcripts was not a goal, but the decision to produce daily draft was generalized in all the three court rooms in 2003. Actually, the new court room performs real-time programs which enable to view, search, and mark testimony for later reference. The court reporting Unit is currently divided into English and French teams with a total of 40 staff members including some French short-term steno-transcribers. For three months now, producing accurate real-time transcripts has become a fascination for the Tribunal which is now facing difficulties because of the lack of highly qualified machine stenowriters who are essential to meet the real-time challenge. This is typical of problems that arise from random recruitments due to the lack of available information on required skills and qualifications.

As it can appear, the qualifications of the verbatim reporters are still insufficiently known, and those of the accurate realtime reporter have to be made public to avoid confusion in the recruitment strategies. This should include in house training policy to develop skills, as one of the challenges that must take up is bringing good information to the reporting job market.

The triple experience I gained in my country, in African parliaments and now in the UN administration, gave me the opportunity to provide training to seven staff in verbatim reporting in Lomé (Tog), twelve verbatim reporters in Libreville (Gabon), more than twenty five in Yaoundé (Cameroon). Many started working before acquiring the 200 words per minute speed. However, this shows that verbatim reporting is an international profession which can provide job opportunities, contribute to achieve many of the UN millennium development goals. It is now my sincere wish that we find successful financial strategies that would help us get rid of factors that prevent the transfer of this fundamental knowledge and technology.

These should include the guideline of the UN development strategy to reinforce the accomplishment of the development millennium goals, with the help of the international community which accepted to provide financial support to make available the benefits of new technologies—especially in information and communication technologies included to train interested staffs. Computer-aided transcription offer numerous advantages with accurate records in parliaments, tribunal, information and communication within the framework of good governance, development, justice and democracy. However, Intersteno may develop a partnership for UN millennium development goals.

In this regard, taking into account the international community keenness, the need to provide available expertise in this domain, there is no doubt that intersteno partners could meet and improve the UN millennium ambitions as expected and expressed by the Organisation in the words of his Secretary-General: “In an age of interdependence, global citizenship — based on trust and a sense of shared responsibility — is a crucial pillar of progress. At a time when more than 1 billion people are denied the very minimum requirements of human dignity, business cannot afford to be seen as the problem. Rather, it must work with government and all other actors in society to mobilize global science, technology and knowledge to tackle the interlocking crises (…) that are holding back the developing world”.

I’m sure we can take part in the achievement of UN development millennium goals, and I would like this idea to disseminate within the intersteno community that I consider as a universal circle of our golden profession, so that we can focus our attention on the millennium development goals, the interests for verbatim reporting activities and how reporting techniques and technologies can contribute to their achievement. I’m sure, together (professionals, machine and software providers, trainers and trainees) with the international community, we can play a great role by down-streaming new job and business opportunities around the world, including to African traditional courts and local council proceedings. 

The aims of the Federation include this qualification requirement which is well explained in article 2, paragraphs 2.3 and 2.5. This, I believe, should be reinforced by a code of ethic and professional practices and even the introduction of diplomas or degrees in reporting, to guide and protect professionals and users against abuses or misconducts, help students to acquire and improve accurate skill and meet the need of the job market, whether as steno-transcribers, simple machine stenowriters or realtime machine stenowriters. This will disseminate information on skill requirements among users and encourage professional excellence, so that we can effectively and efficiently promote the use of reporting technologies worldwide and, by promoting job opportunities, make this 3rd millennium that of reporting.

Once again, I’m very happy to be member of Intersteno community with the aim to consolidate the African team, to promote sustainable development through the transfer of new technologies of information and communication.

In this way, African verbatim-reporters association will be very helpful “to spread information of a professional nature (…) in order to enable and promote the best possible use of human and material resources”, as provided in our Statute and expected by Intersteno partners.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your kind attention.