Cees van Beurden

Introduction to lectures at the Intersteno Congress in Vienna– July 2005

Mister President, dear Intersteno friends,

This morning session is dedicated to past and future of Intersteno. Most speakers however will talk about the future and that is good. We have to go on serving our members in this fast changing world. Mr. Keller, the next speaker, will look back to the past fifty years and that is also good, because an organization like ours must realize where its roots lay, what successes were achieved in the past and be proud of it. That is always a good starting point to look forward.

The International Federation Intersteno is much older than 50 years. More than a century ago the first Intersteno congress was held in London in 1887! At that time shorthand and typewriting had been introduced as tools for office workers. There was a need for international cooperation to achieve that these office workers were well trained and could deliver high quality. It is still the aim of Intersteno to inform its members about new technologies, to help all professionals working with text to perform in the best possible way and to help teachers of young people to achieve that goal.

The world has changed very much since 1887, especially after the second world war. In this period many things changed also for Intersteno. Was it originally a European organization, in the sixties of the last century Intersteno became a world-wide organization with among others the USA, Japan, India, China, Indonesia and Korea as members. And now countries in other parts of the world, like Africa, South America and Australia are on the brink of joining Intersteno.

Intersteno is one of the oldest organizations in the world joining professionals. There is a well known saying: Old soldiers never die, they just fade away. Yes, we are an old soldier, but we don't want to fade away. We want to renew ourselves continuously and stay young! Therefore it was very good, that the General Assembly took in 2003 the decision in Rome to renew the articles of association of Intersteno, to make it possible that the International Federation can be developed further into an organization that is suitable for the century we live in now, the 21st century.

A lot more has to be done in that respect and I am sure, that in the year to come there will be profound discussions about it in the Central Committee. But now I'll focus on one of the important modernizations made possible by the new Constitution of Intersteno, the establishing of the Scientific Committee. This important standing committee has to assist the Board in performing its task, defined in article 14.5 of the Constitution as "to ensure the continuity of the Federation's activities by analyzing the current situation and creating on the basis of that situation and of foreseeable economic, sociological and technological changes a strategy for the years to come". I'll give now a short summery of the work of the committee. You can read more about this in the new website of Intersteno.

In the first year of its existence the committee drew up a working programme and studied a number of possible projects. One of the projects is to collect information about programmes and methods, e-learning included, for learning to operate the keyboard effectively and to try to answer the question what the most effective methods are. A lot of information about this subject has been collected already, among others from the Czech Republic, the USA and the UK. The committee is studying the possibility to come to an international Intersteno certificate for text processing skills as an alternative for the European Computer Drivers Licence (ECDL). Because technical developments are going on, the field of investigation has been broadened to information about learning ICT-skills and working with speech recognition. In this respect the committee investigates the possibility to develope an international programme for the continuous training of teachers by Internet.

Also information is collected about new keyboards that have been developed, such as a virtual keyboard, the YogiType keyboard (a vertical keyboard that has to be operated from behind, which prevents RSI), a new keyboard with 100% blank keys and individually weighted keyswitches and an ergonomic keyboard on which the finger travel distance is greatly reduced. The committee will try to collect experiences of users of all these new keyboards.

A long-term project for the committee shall be to answer the question, if modern technological developments lead to a situation in which the difference between the shorthand competitions and the keyboarding competitions is no longer valid. The boundaries between these two groups of competitions are fading already. It is quite possible that in the future live dictation and taped dictation are to be adopted in the keyboarding competition. In that case the competition will be more or less the same as the shorthand competition, especially taking into account that now also voice writers, using speech recognition, can take part in this competition. But differences will remain, so a lot more research and discussion will be necessary before the committee can give its advise to the Jury.

Speech recognition has become an important item for Intersteno. The Scientific Committee is interested in seeking cooperation with the MUSA project. MUSA stands for MUltilingual Subtitling of multimediA content, a project that is supported by the European Union. The main object of this project is the development of a system which combines together advanced text analysis, speech recognition, machine translation and other techniques to help in the preparation of subtitles. This can play a critical role of enabling the elimination of linguistic barriers between nations and that is an important item for Intersteno too. Because it is a form of information processing, the aim is to produce texts, the need for subtitling is growing and editing by experts will be indispensable to achieve professional quality output, subtitling can become a domain of activity for Intersteno.

The committee advised the Board to publish a quarterly email newsletter of Intersteno, to be sent to all known email addresses, with the possibility that new persons who are interested can subscribe. The first issue of this email newsletter, called Intersteno e-news, was published in November 2004. Thanks to the continuous efforts of Mr.Trivulzio it is developed into a monthly newsletter and is now sent to 1300 addresses. This number is still growing. Starting in August 2005 also short articles about parliamentary reporting services will be published in Intersteno e-news. The newsletter gives regularly useful information to all subscribers and is an important instrument for the PR of Intersteno.

Technological developments are going on. Innovations for textprocessing and for capturing the spoken word appear on the market continuously. The same goes for updates of software programmes and new software programmes. A struggle is going on between Windows and Linux as operating systems. Linux is one of the many programming initiatives which are powered by the Open Source development model. There are many Open Source applications and in many countries institutions and individuals have adopted one or more of these applications. The Scientific Committee was asked to give an advice to the Board about the question which new systems/programmes, being of importance in the fields of activity of Intersteno, are better than existing ones. For the time being the committee will not give such a recommendation. On the other hand the committee deem it its task, to publish announcements about new technological developments in Intersteno e-news and to ask all participants in Intersteno who are using such new technologies, to give their opinion about the advantages and disadvantages of these technologies. In this way a platform of users can be formed and in the end the committee can decide whether or not an advice can be given to the Board about the question, if Intersteno should declare to be in favour of certain systems/programmes for its members or not. This is a question with big implications for Intersteno. So, a lot of more research and discussion will be necessary before Intersteno comes to the point of recommending certain systems/programmes to its members and advise against others.

It is clear that for the Scientific Committee work will never stop to execute its advisory task. It is necessary that the committee will be strengthened with new independent specialists and advisers in the coming years to help Intersteno to become more and more important as the international body for all professionals working with text.