I See What You’re Saying. Natural Language Processing’s Role in our Digital World

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a computer science practice that aims to give computers the ability to understand text and spoken words in the same way humans can. NLP is a key feature of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as understanding the language that we use to "teach" computers is critical to evolving the accuracy of the AI tasks we are asking of them.

The most familiar application of NLP is speech recognition--taking the spoken word and converting it to text. Speech recognition also is part of any application that follows voice commands.To work properly, the technology has to be knowledgeable of accents and frequently understand context (semantics) to differentiate words with a similar sound but have various meanings or spellings. NLP is also closely tied to several tasks that work in the background of applications we use everyday, including spam detection, foreign language translation, virtual assistants, chatbots, social media sentiment analysis, and text summaries/abstracts for long documents.

NLP has helped the IRS streamline how it manages its data and interacts with taxpayers. The Appeals Case Memorandum (ACM) project locates key areas of a document to normalize dimensions, remove whitespace, correct rotation, identify revisions and isolate relevant text fields for optical character recognition. This dramatically reduces the time it takes to review forms (by hand) and gets cases resolved magnitudes faster. Similarly, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is applying NLP to pull relevant data from workplace injury claims, automating the process that once required these forms to be hand read and entered into systems.

More examples of successful implementation of NLP across government are highlighted in these events and resources.

  • Python Web Conference 2021 (March 22-26, 2021; virtual) -- A key programming application for developing NLP solutions, Python holds this conference to promote best practices. It features intensive tutorials, talks, and opportunities for online networking with peers and experts.
  • Third Annual Artificial Intelligence Summit (March 30, 2021; virtual) -- This event features notable federal and industry leaders discussing how to advance technology at speed as well as how private-public partnerships are critical to maintain the competitive advantage within the technology race. There will also be discussion on to how to  develop and implement AI standards that promote interoperability, dependability, and trustworthiness by addressing societal and ethical issues, governance and privacy policies and principles.
  • AI Week 2021 (May 10-14, 2021; virtual ) -- This week-long festival will gather the biggest names in tech and artificial intelligence to discuss ways to harness the emerging technology's potential to revolutionize all aspects of life.
  • Government by Algorithm: Artificial Intelligence in Federal Administrative Agencies (white paper) -- Rapid developments in AI have the potential to reduce the cost of core governance functions, improve the quality of decisions, and unleash the power of administrative data, thereby making government performance more efficient and effective. This paper examines the proper design of algorithms and user interfaces, the respective scope of human and machine decision-making, the boundaries between public actions and private contracting, and when the use of AI is even permitted.
  • The Future of Digital Democracy (white paper) -- This white paper includes interviews with a variety of experts in the field of digital democracy. These conversations were assembled with the ambition to share knowledge and contribute to the ongoing debate of improving our democracies - and preparing them for the future.

Be sure to check out GovEvents for a complete listing of conferences, virtual events, and webinars and GovWhitePapers for 1000+ white papers, case studies and infographics!

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