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With AI to comprehensible government texts

Woman from behind in front of a laptop, on the laptop the tool of SUMM AI

From officialese to easy language in just a few seconds - made possible by SUMM AI. Photo: SUMM AI

A letter from a government office is rarely a document that can be skimmed over in passing - long sentences and technical terms make the text complicated and incomprehensible. SUMM AI uses artificial intelligence to convert official texts into plain language. "Easy language" belongs to the field of accessibility and makes texts understandable for all people with short sentences and a very simple choice of words.

Flora Geske, Managing Director and founder of SUMM AI came up with the idea within her own family: "My aunt belongs to this target group due to a disability, so I know the topic from the family context for a long time. Above all, I knew that so far only a few texts are offered in plain language, although there are actually legal obligations to do so. So, my aunt was the inspiration to develop an AI tool for plain language that makes it much easier for public administration to offer accessible and understandable content at the push of a button. This way, horrendous costs and effort can be avoided and the range of texts can grow significantly."

Easy texts for public authorities not only for people with disabilities

The core target group is more than 10 million people in Germany who depend on plain language to cope with everyday life. They have a disability, have poor language skills or have educational disadvantages. "But the great thing is that we get feedback that almost all people benefit when things are expressed in a way that is easy to understand. So the target group is actually more like 80 million people in Germany," Flora emphasizes.

SUMM AI is preaching to the choir - the tool has been well received and recommended to others. The start-up's tool is now in use throughout Germany, for example in the Senate Chancellery in Hamburg, the district of East Holstein, the city of Aschaffenburg and the Aachen city region. The Bavarian Ministry of the Interior is using the light official language in the run-up to the state elections on 8 October.

AI can support but not replace

For the final check, however, SUMM AI still needs people. The tool is mainly used by press offices, website editors or employees in specialist departments - "these are the experts for the content who can judge well whether all the important facts are factually correct," says Flora. "In case of doubt, a small adjustment can be made before the text is published. We take care of plain language and compliance with its rules, our users have the final say in the fact check."

The administrative staff also continuously help to develop user-friendly texts. Their feedback is evaluated by language and AI experts. If all rules are adhered to, the AI model is fed with the changed information and the transfer of authority texts into easy language is thus continuously improved.

Simple texts for public authorities do not necessarily mean simple language

However, Flora believes that simplifying all official texts from the outset is not the final solution: "We should all strive to use language that is easy to understand. At the same time, as an instrument for greater accessibility, plain language is very easy to read and thus rather unfamiliar to many people. For example, only main sentences and no subordinate clauses are allowed. Thus, the text version in plain language is rather given as additional text so that people can choose for themselves which version they want to read. Sometimes it is also important to allow texts to remain linguistically more complicated because of legally very complex issues. With the additional comprehension aid in plain language, one then does justice to both."

More information about SUMM AI's AI-generated easy language is available here.

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