A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Appen's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Appen is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

VP Language Resources UK
Sarah Lowe
Supervisory and
management team, Exeter
Many worry about the potential effects of AI on the
economy and society. Appen, however, feels that
the focus should be on the benefits of AI, as firms
adopting this technology can revolutionise the way they do
business. Machine learning – an important component of AI – is
used by leading companies around the world to create more
personalised online experiences, streamline operations and
improve products. Successfully using machine learning, Appen
says, requires more than good algorithms; it needs data both
high in quality and great in number. This is what differentiates
Appen, which manages large-scale data collection and
annotation projects for many industries, operating in over 180
languages and dialects, working with a global “crowd” of over
one million people. Sarah Lowe, Vice President of Language
Resources UK, says more about this vast undertaking.
Interpreting language
Here at Appen, our business is all about data. From providing data that is used
to improve AI and machine learning-based technologies, to producing data for
evidential, official record transcripts, Appen works with major international and UK
clients who require both types of data sets.
In practice, the management of data might mean turning an audio recording of an
investigative or police witness interview into a readable text transcript – something
»VP Language Resources UK:
Sarah Lowe
»Established in 1996
»UK operations based in Exeter,
»Service: Provision of data
sets for artificial intelligence,
machine learning and official
record transcripts
»No. of employees: Over 50 in
the UK, over 500 globally
»ISO 27001, ISO 9001 and
Cyber Essentials accreditation
Highlighting best practice
34 | APPEN
particularly useful in a legal or formal
hearing context. It’s for this reason
that we hold many government and
public sector contracts, including
with the Crown Prosecution Service,
police forces and local authorities.
This removes a significant amount
of unnecessary labour from their
processes, meaning that justice can
be pursued efficiently and cost-
effectively through a professionally
managed, outsourced and secure
The characteristics that make us a
preferred provider for many branches
of the British justice system include:
more than 25 years of experience;
thorough screening, security vetting
and supervision of resources; and our
ISO 27001, Cyber Essentials and ISO
9001 certifications, which guarantee
highly secure, quality transcription.
In terms of Appen’s AI services, our
strength lies in our ability to handle
large-scale data collection and
annotation projects with quick ramp-
up times to produce high-quality data
for our clients. Our services underpin
a variety of machine learning-based
technologies, including chatbots and
virtual assistants, in-car infotainment
systems, search engines, social media
platforms and more.
Support for machine learning
Our rapid growth has been fuelled
by investments in machine learning
programs that have been made by
companies across all industries to
gain competitive advantage. The
process requires close collaboration
with our clients, ensuring that their
specific goals and projects are fully
understood. We have partnered with
leading technology companies across
the board, from search engines to
social media platforms. As with our
transcription and annotation services,
we once again distinguish ourselves
in this area by having a strong and
provable commitment to data security.
Data with a human touch
It’s worth emphasising once more
that the data we provide is not
indiscriminate – for machine learning is
only as good as the data that is used to
train it. Our business model hinges on
custom engagements to understand
the problem the clients are trying to
solve with machine learning, their
data needs and their quality goals. We
then design a data program specific
to meeting their objectives, and our
project managers work hand in hand
Appen Exeter team
Data with a human
Our strength
lies in our ability
to handle large-
scale data
collection and
projects with
quick ramp-up
with clients to ensure that quality
metrics are met. Our approach has
allowed us to build strong relationships
with our clients, who continue to
renew with us year after year.
Meeting market demands
In so restless and effervescent an
industry as ours, one of the main
difficulties is simply keeping up with
the rapid pace of development. As
a recognisable company in this area,
we feel it’s important that we not
only stay ahead of the curve, but also
remain able to cope with the high
levels of demand. We pride ourselves
on providing “data with a human
touch”, so it’s doubly necessary that
the data we provide is appropriate for
the situation at hand. That is, we do
not simply churn things out at scale;
we instead offer a truly customised
solution to our clients. This is a more
difficult undertaking, but it’s an
aspect of our service that our clients
Another challenge – albeit one that
we recognise as wholly necessary –
is the regulatory and data security
environment through which we must
navigate. This is especially the case
when we want to win government
contracts or work for clients who
have highly confidential, cutting-edge
technology applications. These all
require the utmost security and trust.
To give an example of how this plays
out, we have to organise our company
in such a way that only those who
are sufficiently vetted can handle
certain types of data. To meet all these
prescribed thresholds is a challenging
and ongoing task, but excelling in
this area has won us a much more
esteemed position in the market.
Thoughts for the future
Servicing and supporting the ever-
expanding needs of AI is an exciting
place to be for Appen. The future for
us doesn’t have the distant quality
it might have for other businesses,
because we ourselves are part of
the process of defining the future.
For us, then, the future consists of
perpetuating what we are already
doing, continually seeking to improve
and refine our client services. It also
means growing our “crowd” of
specialist data workers and keeping
abreast of the competition. It’s for
these reasons among many others that
we are optimistic as we look ahead.
Our project
work hand in
hand with
clients to
ensure that
quality metrics
are met
Secure transcription area

This article was sponsored by Appen. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy