Turning pixels into data: Imaging for accessibility

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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Public Service and Procurement Canada's (PSPC) Document Imaging Solutions Centre (DISC) is seeking to develop innovative capture solutions to improve accessibility of digitized documents and increase production capabilities, thus providing citizens and government organizations with more cost-effective, accessible and adapted digital information.

Sponsoring Department: Public Service and Procurement Canada

Funding Mechanism: Contract

Opening date: February 18, 2020
Closing date: June 2, 2020 14:00 Eastern Daylight Time

Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell

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Challenge

Summary

Public Service and Procurement Canada's (PSPC) Document Imaging Solutions Centre (DISC) is seeking to develop innovative capture solutions to improve accessibility of digitized documents and increase production capabilities, thus providing citizens and government organizations with more cost-effective, accessible and adapted digital information.

Problem Statement

In light of the recently adopted Accessible Canada Act, DISC is facing technological challenges in providing digitized documents with improved readability for those with disabilities. Current imaging technologies for high-volume production are not designed to produce accessible documents that include proper tagging, image description and reading order. On the other hand, accessibility remediation solutions require significant user input and validation to produce accessible documents, and are therefore unfit for high-volume production environments. DISC is looking for technological solutions that make use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and/or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to integrate to our current imaging processes, with the objectives of producing documents in standard accessible formats (specifically HTML5 and ePub3) that respect all accessibility guidelines, while improving our accuracy rate and reducing costs associated with quality assurance.

Desired outcomes

Essential Outcomes

Proposed solutions must:

  1. integrate to current Government of Canada imaging infrastructure (see Annex 1 for current workflow and technologies);
  2. allow for the secure processing of Protected B and Secret documents;
  3. make possible the conversion of both digitally created and scanned PDF documents into well-structured, properly tagged and fully compliant HTML5 or ePub3 files;
  4. make use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Application (RPA) or any other relevant technology to extract pertinent and contextualized information from digitized documents, and produce accessible files that respect European Union Standard EN 301-549 (2018);
  5. integrate remediation console and revision tools to support validation of tagging, alternative text, tables, charts and other required descriptive entries;
  6. be scalable to provide high-volume imaging or conversion capacity;
  7. integrate solid reporting capacity and accessibility validation tools to provide feedback on automated processes.

Additional Outcome:

Proposed solutions should:

  1. provide basic quality control automations (page flipping, identification of scanning issues, rescan functionalities) while providing interactive interfaces to accelerate quality insurance operations and support data entry (when required);
  2. facilitate accessibility remediation for non-expert remediation agents through the use of a desktop application. This application should be designed to support manual actions such as tagging, alternate text integration, establishment of reading order as well as accessibility assessment.
  3. improve the overall accuracy of our capture processes and reduce the use of manual data entry, verification and corrections.

Background and Context

As a service provider for a large number of federal organizations, DISC wants to respond to the recently-adopted Accessible Canada Act by offering value-added imaging services that include accessible file formats and adapted content in an environment of high-volume production and a 100% cost-recovery model. There are currently no integrated solutions to this task, other than highly labor-intensive data analysis and entry. Our current imaging workflow includes Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capacity and creates PDF files that are manually scanned for quality control and data entry, when required. PSPC is interested in a solution to make use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) (including deep learning and image recognition) and robotic automation to extract pertinent and contextualized information from digitized document and produce fully functional, well-structured and properly tagged accessible documents.

The three main difficulties encountered during conversion to an accessible format are:

  1. the recognition and alt tagging for photos and images;
  2. the identification and description of bar graphs, pie charts or any color-coded graph; and,
  3. interactions with large tables and other non-regular content.
The current market for our services is limited to federal organizations, but may expand in the near future to include other levels of government, notably provincial and municipal entities as well as foreign governments. Canada's intention to gain leadership in areas of accessibility and open governance provide a unique opportunity to develop solutions that other entities will be requiring as regulations and policies are adopted.

Annex 1 — Workflow diagram and infrastructure summary

Long description below.
Text version

A workflow diagram describing each step of the imaging process, with emphasis on two phases that could benefit from AI assisted enhancements and accessibility remediation. The input of the imaging process can be comprised of incoming mail, forms, archive documents, faxes or electronic documents. The import phase includes preparation and scanning. Then the treatment phase includes image enhancement, quality control, classification (manual or automatic) as well as OCR/ICR. This phase may include data lookup and rescan process. This section is also the first potential point of application for AI assisted enhancement of OCR, ICR, alt text generation and quality control. In the third phase, a PDF document is created and exported. This steps represents a second opportunity for accessibility remediation, including automated alt text, tagging, conversion to ePub and HTML5 formats, as well as accessibility quality control. Finally, files are exported to evidentiary image repositories, working image repositories or SFT File transfer access locations for consultation by end users over an SSL Web connexion, and through the client's system.

Maximum value and travel

Maximum contract value:

Multiple contracts could result from this Challenge.

The maximum funding available for any Phase 1 contract resulting from this Challenge is $150,000.00 CAD excluding applicable taxes, shipping, travel and living expenses, as required, for up to 6 months (excluding submission of the final report).

Estimated number of Phase 1 contracts: 2

The maximum funding available for any Phase 2 contract resulting from this Challenge is $1,000,000.00 CAD excluding applicable taxes, shipping, travel and living expenses, as required, for up to 24 months (excluding submission of the final report). Only eligible businesses that have successfully completed Phase 1 will be considered for Phase 2.

Estimated number of Phase 2 contracts: 1

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to contract for the total approximate funding. Final decisions on the number of Phase 1 and Phase 2 awards will be made by Canada on the basis of factors such as evaluation results, departmental priorities and availability of funds.

Travel:

For Phase 1 it is anticipated that two meetings will require the successful bidder(s) to travel to the location identified below:

Kick-off meeting
Matane, QC

Progress Update
Videoconference/Teleconference

Final Review Meeting
Matane, QC

Eligibility

Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • for profit
  • incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
  • 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
  • research and development activities that take place in Canada
  • 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *

Evaluation Criteria

The official source of the Evaluation Criteria for this challenge is the Government Electronic Tendering System (Buy and Sell) https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/tender-notice/PW-20-00899125)

In the event of a discrepancy between the information below and the information published on Buy and Sell, Buy and Sell will take precedence.

The Bidder must complete the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form with a degree of information sufficient to enable Canada's assessment of the proposal against the criteria and the Evaluation Schema. The information must demonstrate how the proposal meets the criterion.

Part 1: Mandatory Criteria

Proposals must meet all mandatory criteria identified by achieving a "Pass" in order to proceed to Part 2. Proposals that do not meet all mandatory criteria will be deemed non-responsive and given no further consideration.

Mandatory Criteria

(Bidder's proposal must address)

Question 1 a: Scope

Describe the proposed solution and demonstrate how it responds to the challenge. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which the solution is proposed and clearly demonstrate how the solution meets all of the Essential Outcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes section in the Challenge Notice.

Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass

The Bidder's proposed solution is clearly articulated, within the scope for the challenge and addresses all Essential Outcomes (if identified) in the Challenge Notice.

Fail

The proposed solution is articulated as out of scope for the challenge.
OR
The proposal does not clearly demonstrate how the proposed solution addresses all Essential Outcomes listed in the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution is poorly described and does not permit concrete analysis.
OR
There is little to no scientific and/or technological evidence that the proposed solution is likely to meet the challenge.

Question 2: Current Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
  1. Indicate the current TRL of the proposed solution. (Drop Down Menu of the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form)
  2. Describe the research and development activities that have taken place to bring the proposed solution to the stated TRL.
Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass

The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is currently between TRLs 1 and 6 (inclusive), and provided justification by explaining the research and development (R&D) that has taken place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.

Fail

The Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the current TRL is between 1 to 6 (inclusive) including:

  1. There is insufficient/no evidence provided for TRL judgment.
  2. The solution involves the development of basic or fundamental research.
  3. The solution is demonstrated at TRL 7 or higher.
  4. Insufficient/unclear/no justification explaining the R&D that took place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.
  5. The explanation simply paraphrases the description of a given TRL level.
Question 3a: Innovation

Demonstrate how the proposed solution meets one or more of the ISC definitions of innovation below:

  1. An invention*, new technology or new process that is not currently available in the marketplace.
  2. Significant modifications to the application of existing technologies/components/processes that are applied in a setting or condition for which current applications are not possible or feasible.
  3. An improvement in functionality, cost or performance over an existing technology/process that is considered state-of-the-art or the current industry best practice.

* An "invention" is defined for the purposes of ISC as: "A manufacturing design or any other new and useful improvement that is new or novel, that is, not commonly known or not an obvious derivative of an existing way of doing things."

Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass

The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution meets one or more of the ISC definitions of innovation.

Fail

The Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the current TRL is between 1 to 6 (inclusive) including:

  • Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the proposed solution meets any of the ISC definitions of innovation; OR
  • Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is an incremental improvement, "good engineering", or a technology that would go ahead in the normal course of product development (i.e. the next version or release).
Question 3b: Advance on State of the Art

Describe in detail the competitive advantages and level of advancement over existing technologies. Where appropriate, name existing technologies as well as potential substitutes or competitors.

To demonstrate this, proposals should include the following information:

  • Improvements (minor or major) over existing technologies or substitutes. Use direct comparison.
  • How the proposed innovation will create competitive advantages in existing market niches or market spaces.
Evaluation Schema (Mandatory Criteria — Pass/Fail + Points)

0 points/Fail:

  • The Bidder has not demonstrated that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions; OR
  • The proposed solution improves minimally upon the current state of the art, though not sufficiently enough to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
  • The stated advancements are described in general terms but are not substantiated with specific, measurable evidence.

5 points/Pass:

  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one or two minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that have potential to create competitive advantages in existing market niches.

12 points/Pass

  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers three or more minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that together are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one significant improvement to existing technologies that is likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches

20 points/Pass:

  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers two or more significant improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches and could define new market spaces; OR
  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution can be considered a new benchmark of state of the art that is clearly ahead of competitors and that is likely to define new market spaces

Part 2: Point-Rated Criteria

Proposals must meet the overall minimum pass mark of 50% to be deemed responsive. Proposals that do not achieve the minimum pass mark will be declared non-responsive and given no further consideration.

Point-Rated Criteria

(Bidder's proposal to address)

Question 1b: Scope

Demonstrate the scientific and technological basis of how the proposed solution addresses the Additional Outcomes(if identified) in the Desired Outcomes section in the Challenge Notice. If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, text entered in this section will not be considered.

If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, Bidders will receive 10 points.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the solution will address any of the Additional Outcomes. 0 points
  2. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address some (<50%) of the Additional Outcomes. 3 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address most (50% or more) of the Additional Outcomes. 6 points
  4. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address all (100%) of the Additional Outcomes. 10 points
Question 4: Phase 1 Science and Technology (S&T) Risks

Describe potential scientific and/or technological risks to the successful development of the proof of feasibility and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Bidder has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates that the Bidder has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Bidder has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points
Question 5: Phase 1 Project Plan

Demonstrate a feasible Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

  • Indicate if any milestones and activities will be completed concurrently
  • Indicate the estimated exit TRL at the completion of Phase 1. (Drop Down Menu of the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form)
Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate a feasible project plan for Phase 1 and/or the project plan exceeds the maximum duration indicated in the Challenge Notice. 0 points
  2. Project plan for Phase 1 is conceivably feasible but not clearly demonstrated and/or includes gaps. 10 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates a feasible project plan for Phase 1. 20 points
Question 6: Phase 1 Project Risks

Describe potential project risks to the successful development of the proof of feasibility and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1.

Bidders should address the following risks, as applicable:

  • Human Resources
  • Financial
  • Project Management
  • Intellectual Property
  • Other project-related risks

Note to Bidders: S&T risks should not be included in this section. Question 4 addresses S&T risks.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Bidder has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates that the Bidder has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Bidder has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points
Question 7: Phase 1 Implementation Team

Demonstrate how the project implementation team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the project plan for Phase 1 by completing the table. A member of the implementation team can have more than one role.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  2. Information is provided but there are minor gaps in required management and/or technological skill sets and/or experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 10 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 20 points
Question 8: Inclusivity

If your business were to receive funding from Innovative Solutions Canada, describe what actions (e.g., recruitment strategy, internships, co-op placements, etc.) might be taken in Phase 1 to support the participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people, visible minorities) in the research and development of the proposed solution. Each Bidder in their response to this question must focus only on describing relevant programs, policies, or initiatives that it currently has in place or would put in place to support the R&D effort in Phase 1.

Note: Do not provide any personal information of individuals employed by your company or that of your subcontractors in the response.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. No description and/or concrete examples of actions provided that would be taken to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups. 0 points
  2. A description and concrete examples of actions to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups provided. 5 points
Question 9: Phase 1 Financial Proposal

Demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient information provided and/or information provided significantly lack credibility. Does not demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  2. Information is provided but some costs lack credibility and/or are unclear for the Phase 1 project plan. 7.5 points
  3. Information provided contains credible elements to clearly demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 15 points
Question 10: Phase 1 Financial Controls, Tracking and Oversight

Describe the financial controls, tracking and oversight that will be used to manage the public funds throughout Phase 1. Bidders should indicate if an individual or firm will be managing the public funds and provide their credentials and/or relevant experience.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate the Bidder's ability to manage public funds in Phase 1. 0 points
  2. Information provided is vague and/or contains gaps. The Bidder has some controls, tracking and/or oversight in place to manage the public funds in Phase 1. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Bidder has strong financial controls, tracking and oversight to manage public funds in Phase 1. 10 points
Question 11: Phase 2 Overview

Demonstrate a realistic overview for the prototype development plan if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Responses should include:

  • key tasks
  • estimated cost for materials
  • human resources
  • project risks and mitigation strategies

Note: A more detailed proposal will be requested if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Bidder has contemplated a realistic overview for the Phase 2 prototype development. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates a conceivably realistic overview for Phase 2 prototype development, however there are gaps and/or the strategy is vague. 6 points
  3. Information provided demonstrates that the Bidder has a clear and realistic overview. 12 points
Question 12: Commercialization Approach

Demonstrate a realistic overall commercialization approach/business model that can successfully take the technology/service to market, and how the technology/service will help you develop and sell other products.

Responses should include:

  • Target markets (excluding Government of Canada)
  • Non-ISC funding sources
  • Transition to a commercially-ready product or service
  • Any other indicators of commercial potential and commercial feasibility

Note: A more detailed proposal will be requested if selected to participate in Phase 2 or the Testing Stream.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 0 points
  2. Some information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential, however there are gaps in the commercialization approach. 6 points
  3. A realistic commercialization approach is provided that demonstrates that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 12 points
Question 13: Resulting Benefits to Canada

Describe the benefits that could result from the commercialization of the proposed solution. Bidders should consider the potential benefits using the following three categories and provide justification for each claim:

  1. Innovation Benefits: Expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovations within your firm. Responses could include: potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.
  2. Economic Benefits: Forecasted impact on the growth of Canadian firms, clusters and supply chains, as well as its expected benefits for Canada's workforce. Responses could include: number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, investment in Canada's economy, etc.
  3. Public Benefits: Expected contribution to the broader public to the degree that the solution is expected to generate social, environmental, health, security or other benefits to Canada. Responses could include: solution-related environmental benefits, solution-related accessibility benefits, and solution-related impact on Indigenous communities.
Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Innovation Benefits
    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point
    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points
  2. Economic Benefits
    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point
    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points
  3. Public Benefits
    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point
    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points

Questions and answers

Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell.

All incoming questions regarding this specific challenge should be addressed to SIC-ISC@pwgsc.gc.ca

You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovative Solutions Canada Program.

glossary is also available.

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