Saturday, August 22, 2009

Digitization of Assembly Proceedings

Digital Archive of Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings
A Unique Model in Indian Context

P.D. Rajan
Secretary, Kerala Legislative Assembly.

C.S. Sathikumar
Chief Librarian,
Kerala Legislature Secretariat.

Conservation, organization and management of authentic copies of records essential for providing evidence, showing precedence etc in the event of future functioning of government, legislature, judiciary and enquiry commissions is very important for government especially for the Legislature and Judiciary. Hence ensuring the conservation/safety of the government records especially legislative and judicial documents as well as enabling speedy and efficient access to them is very important. The current method for fulfilling these functions cost effectively and efficiently is their digitization and organization as digital library or archive with search and retrieval mechanisms.
Homepage of Digital Archives of Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings
Increasingly, digital records are also defined in laws and regulations as being equal to traditional paper and micrographic records. Legislative Assembly Proceedings is an important category of Government documents that is covered by the above definition. Along with such developments and new requirements hardware and software that can ensure retaining of authentic original documents without any possibility of their later tampering has also come into existence. Providing access to the data instantly after its final authorization has through the net become possible due to the current developments in ICT. In these contexts Kerala Legislative Assembly also has decided to use Digital Archiving/Library technologies to conserve the Assembly records and provide speedy and efficient access to it to the members.

Legislative Records
Legislative Records mainly consist of the deliberations of Legislative Councils/Assemblies called proceedings and also various Legislature Committee Reports. These documents are distinct from all other government records. The nature of the organization of their content, the periodicity of their issue, their importance as authoritative sources for legislative process etc are unique and they form one of the most important official records collection held by government/legislature.
The earlier documents in Kerala Legislature are mainly hand written or typewritten. A few of them have only one existing copy. The paper on which the earlier proceedings are printed has become brittle and in many cases unreadable. So it is very difficult to handle or consult them and providing them for reference is at the cost of their life. These are also very rare documents and no other copy is available anywhere else and there is no alternate source for getting their content and verification of authority. The destruction of these precious documents will results in the loss of unique items related to the Legislation. But most of the Legislative proceedings are constantly in demand and are subjected to continuous Xeroxing, which cannot be prevented. The frequent handling for reference as well as for Xeroxing of proceedings will gradually lead to the destruction of these unique original documents.
If they are digitally archived an authentic digital version will become accessible in a more efficient way to the users without any restrictions. The master copy of the digital archive can be kept at a safe and secure place. The digitized documents will be accessible to everyone through Kerala Legislative Assembly official website.

Information Retrieval
Retrieving relevant information from unconventional publications like Legislative Proceedings and Committee Reports is a very difficult task. Over the years, the legislative documents have accumulated in thousands of volumes without their proper organization, bibliographic control and their content indexing.
Even though access to the contents of Legislative Documents is very difficult using manual methods, Speaker, Ministers, Legislators and officials who need information from these documents have to consult them very frequently. In the legislative process and day-to-day functioning of the Legislature these documents have to be consulted more frequently. As the quantum of Legislative documents is growing, retrieving relevant information from these documents is becoming more and more difficult and complex. Unless elaborate and in-depth indexes of the contents are prepared majority of relevant content will go unnoticed when information is retrieved and provided to members. But manual indexing will be a very costly and time-consuming affair. So digital conversion of original and the computerized indexing of full-text of Legislative Documents is the only available solution for conservation, and efficient content organization and retrieval.

Benefits of Digitally Archiving Legislative Proceedings
Creation of digital archives of legislative documents can solve various problems related to information retrieval. Searching into the documents/full text of the Assembly proceedings will become speedy and efficient. Digital archiving involves converting paper documents of all types and languages from the Council/ Assembly proceedings into machine-readable format, with textual file seen background and interfacing them with a powerful search mechanism having multilingual / script search capability. The search engine will search and retrieve relevant information, the specific page in which the required information occurs from a vast digital archive of millions of pages in seconds.
The traditional card catalogue in the library and its electronic counter part OPAC (Open Public Access Catalogue) achieves document retrieval for reference. Using them a Member can find out if a book by a specific author is available, a book of specified title is available or if a book on a specific subject is available. Like that member can also understand if the Legislative Assembly proceedings of a particular Assembly or a specific date is available or not. But using them a member can not understand or confirm if an article on a specific topic, or an article by a specific author or talk by a specific member in the assembly or a talk on a specific subject in the assembly is available in the legislature or not and if available in which volume. In digital Library all these can be confirmed and in seconds after the confirmation of availability the full text of the concerned document or the concerned page can be retrieved in the terminal used by the member. Digital Archiving aims to achieve full text retrieval of the documents.
The most obvious advantage of digitization is that it enables broader and enhanced access to a wider community. Original documents gets preserved very efficiently in safe conditions, and can be protected from careless use and those documents that require strengthening can be put for conservation work. The digital version of Legislative Documents, which are exact replica of their pages, can be provided for unrestricted use. Selective and speedy access to information becomes assured. Research scholars, Lawyers and public at large will be in need of legislative documents to meet their research, legal and administrative requirements and they can be supplied with print outs or digital copies of concerned portion of the document on payment basis. Members can consult the full text of the Legislative Documents from their home or at any place during their travel, where Internet connection is available. The digital archive of Kerala Legislative Assembly covers the document categories of Legislative proceeding from 1888 onwards, Legislature Committee Reports, Rulings from the chair, and Bulletin Part I & II. Of the current and future Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings the content at different stages as well as different formats like Audio Files of Proceedings, Video Files of Proceedings, Draft Pages prepared by Editing Section, Approved Pages of Proceedings, Final Offset Copy approved for sending to the Press etc will be kept in the digital storage systems with permissions restricted to different stages only to the concerned who are to edit or approve/access them. Digital Library system can be used from the day of approval of the final pages for printing the proceedings can be made accessible online instantly.
Digital Archiving Processes
Digital information also has common characteristics and qualities, regardless of whether the content is stored on hard disks, DVD, CD or other secondary digital storage media. Digital data can be compressed for storage. The digital content can be browsed easily, and can be searched, indexed, book marked and collated instantly. Most important, it can be linked to a ‘web’ of other contents either locally or globally via the Internet. The development of ‘Digital Libraries’ has made storage, dissemination and access of legislative information also faster and flexible.
Proceedings of Legislature are its own property. Legislature is responsible for their recording, editing, authentication and publishing. It is the one and only reliable possessor of complete proceedings. So legislature has the responsibility for their conservation and dissemination.
Process of digital archiving has got the following two important processes; digitization of all the pages of documents in a format of internationally accepted library standard, and then developing a database of documents using metadata/bibliographic data and index of contents. In Kerala Legislative Assembly the pages of proceedings are scanned using flatbed scanners and saved to PDF format. PDF (Portable Document Format) by Adobe Acrobat is the most popular format used for e-book/e-paper solutions by major publishers and libraries worldwide. Adobe PDF reader is available free of cost and is packaged with the software made available with every computer system. After scanning, digitized pages of the proceedings were organized (titled, cropped and bound) into the electronic book, which is very similar to hard copy of the proceedings.
After organizing the proceedings document into e-book its contents like Question-Answers, Adjournment Motion, Calling Attention, Submission, Financial and Legislative business, Points of Order, Rulings etc are made easily navigatable with a single mouse click. For this the entire proceedings requires to be book marked which is an important step in the document organization. finally the text is subjected to OCR (Optical Character Recognition) for search using any word/phrase in the document. At present this is only possible for English documents. The language technology available for Indian languages is inept for OCR for the time being. Malayalam Language Technology is under development. So here Unicode compliable mechanism was used so that that it will be possible in future for scaling up of the system to harness developments in language technology.

Nature and Quantity of Kerala Legislative Assembly Records
The details of the collection of Assembly Records available in Kerala Legislative Assembly show that the quantum and quality of the records is comparable to that of any Parliament or Legislature of India or other countries. Presently Nearly 6.2 lakh printed pages of Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings are available. The language of majority of them is Malayalam. Nearly 75000 pages are in English, Tamil and Kannada. Documents of earlier years are in handwritten form. Of the documents 75% are in old original Malayalam Script. So for any digitization program the package used in Kerala Legislative Assembly as in other similar situations should be able to handle one or more local scripts, in their different stages of development as well as English and Hindi. So any digital library or archive development solution that is used should be a multilingual programme relevant to the region
Project Report and Technical Specifications
The detailed technical report on the project was prepared by Centre for Informatics Research and Development (CIRD). CIRD is a research institution functioning under the Societies Registration Act (Central Act XXI of 1860). The mission of the Centre is to act as a center of excellence in informatics and to assist government and other organizations by evolving required information and communication strategies, to provide training and advisory services for enabling them to identify appropriate policies for information management and the implementation of new knowledge and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for improving their efficiency and relevance and to provide consultancy in establishing legal frameworks for the protection of information and innovations.
In response to a request from Kerala Legislature in 2007 for providing consultancy CIRD consisting of specialists on digital library development, language Technology, etc analyzed the existing system. A survey of the digital library development projects that materialized in Kerala especially multilingual systems were evaluated and a detailed report with full technical details and specification was prepared. The archive was developed in accordance with the specifications.
Database and Search Mechanism
Digital collection of proceedings will be useless without a proper retrieval system. A particular day’s proceedings bears many access points like the business transacted, bills introduced, papers laid on the table, reports and budget presented, motions moved, special discussions held, allegations raised, rulings given, name of member, subject of discussion etc. All these aspects should be structured into a database without which the digital files of proceedings would be a useless dumping of documents in a collection from which retrieval will be difficult as from an unorganized printed document collection.
A search in Digital Archives of Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings
Documents Listed Against the Search

Assembly, Session, Date, Class (business of the House), Members and subject wise search facility is provided in the Kerala Legislative Assembly Archive.
Document Selected From the List and Retrieved

The Digital Archiving Package Used
Digital Archives of Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings is developed using the best software solution available for meeting various requirements in Indian context. In retrieval methods and speed also it is better than any international solutions used in India. The major digital Library Archive solutions used all over the world are Greenstone, DSpace and E-Prints. In Greenstone, DSpace, E-prints etc when a user searches for a subject or keyword the search retrieves the full document containing that subject. Then user had to turn the pages and find out where his subject occurs in the document. This can be understood if we examine the archives built in Greenstone, DSpace, E-Prints, etc presently available in the web. The best international Digital archives created using DSpace is at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) which itself has developed the package. Best Indian archive using that package is Vidhya Nidhi, which archives dissertations of Indian universities. Using their facilities can reveal that both are not having the possibilities of Digital Archives created by Kerala Legislature. Comparison of archives built in Greenstone, and, E-Prints, other major software used world wide also reveal that they are designed for English and other International languages and processing Indian language even though have become possible now is not easy and efficient. They are not apt for a system as that is essential for Assembly Proceedings Archive.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which developed Dspace in association with Hewlet Packard has a prestigeous Digital Archive for storing their Dissertations. It can be accessed at
When we make a search for Indian Parliament in its search page it will retrieve about 11 documents. First the 11 documents will be listed. If we select a document which we want to view them it will give a full bibliographical record with an abstract and will give the options Preview, non-printable (open to all) and Full printable version (MIT only). For the public the first option only is available. For both options selected the system will provide the full document and searching and reaching the concerned page in which the aspect on Indian Parliament is covered is user’s business. But in Digital Archives of the Kerala legislature user will reach the specific page in which the subject of search occurs and then user can navigate forward or backward in the electronic book.
The package used in Kerala Assembly can retrieve the specific page in which the search item occurs and from that page user can navigate forward or backward. Also the system provides facility for searching all the concerned local language records in the concerned local scripts itself. The system is also Unicode compliant.
Conservation and Enhanced Access
The digitized version of Kerala Legislative Assembly proceedings for the period 1957 to 1959 were already released by Her Excellency the President of India, Smt. Prathibha Devi Singh Patil on 30-4-2008 in connection with the concluding ceremony of the Silver Jubilee Celebration of Kerala Legislative Assembly.

Her Excellency the President of India Smt. Prathiba Devi Singh Patil releases the digitized version of First Kerala Legislative Assembly (1957-59) Proceedings
(From left: Shri. Jose Baby, Deputy Speaker,KLA, Shri. C. Divakaran, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Shri. K. Radhakrishnan, Speaker, KLA, His Excellency the Governor of Kerala Shri. R.L. Bhatia, Shri. V.S. Achuthanandan, Chief Minister, Shri. Oommen Chandy, Leader of Opposition, KLA, Shri. N.K. Pramachandran, Minister for Water Resources.)
For the period from 1957 to 1982 consisting of 941 days of proceedings covering pages of about 1,32,000 were digitized and launched into web at www. klaproceedings .niyam with full search facility by the Hon’ble Speaker of Kerala Legislative Assembly Shri. K. Radhakrishnan on 4-3-2009.
The Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings from 1982 to current year and earlier proceedings of the erstwhile legislative bodies in Kerala from 1888 to 1956 will be digitized and made available to the public in a short while.
At the completion of the project a Digital Library/ Archives of Kerala Legislative Assembly Records consisting of the complete proceedings, reports and other documents related to the Travancore, Cochin, Travancore-Cochin and Kerala Legislative Councils and Assemblies from the year 1888 to 2011 will become functional at the Kerala Legislature Library. It will have in digital form the full text of the proceedings of the Legislative bodies of Kerala from 1888 consisting of Legislative Council of Travancore (1888-) Travancore Sri Mulam Popular Assembly (1904-) the bicameral set up (1933-) consisting of Lower House, Sri Mulam Assembly and Upper House, the Sri Chitra State Council, the Representative Body / Constituent Assembly of Travancore (1948-), Cochin Legislative Council (1925) / Assembly (1948- Travancore and Cochin Legislative Assembly (1949-), Kerala Legislative Assembly (1957-)
Conservation of these heritage items has been taken as a priority area of Kerala Legislature. The completion of this project will enable broader and enhanced access to the assembly records to a wider community without causing any harm to the originals. Selective and speedy access to the content will become possible. Members can consult the full text of the Legislative Documents from their constituency/office/home or at any place during their travel.

Shri K. Radhakrishnan Hon. Speaker, Kerala Legislative Assembly launches the Digital Archive of Assembly Proceeding
( Sitting from left: Shri. P.D. Rajan, Secretary, Kerala Legislative Assembly, Shri. Manjalamkuzhi Ali, MLA, Chairman, Library Advisory Committee, Smt. R. Prasanna Kumari, Special Secretary and Shri. C.S. Sathikumar, Chief Librarian)

Notes and References
Griffin, Stephen M. Digital Libraries and the NSF/DARPA/NASA Digital Libraries Initiative. In: Raitt, David. Ed. Libraries for the New Millennium. London, Library Association, pp 115-147.
Hussain, K H; Raman Nair, R and Raveendran Asari, K 2002. Importance of search and retrieval in CD-ROM full text publishing: Experiments using PDF documents and ‘Nitya’ archival system. Information Studies 8(3): 173-180
Digital Archive of Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings http: www.klaproceedings.
Disserttion Archives at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Prasad, A R D and Devika P Madalli. Semantic Web and Digital Libraries. Proceedings of the International Conference. Bangalore, DRTC, 2007.
Rowley, Jennifer. The Electronic Library. 4th ed. London, Library Association, 1998, 390p
Sathikumar, C. S. and Raman Nair, R. and Bhagi, N. K. Digital Archive of Kerala Legislative Assembly Proceedings., 2007 [Report]
Witten, Ian H. Visions of the digital library. International Conference on Asian Digital Libraries, 4th, Bangalore, 2001. Proceedings: Digital Libraries, ICDAL 2001, pp 3-15ICDL 2006:International Conference on

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