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UK government adds voice to citizen services delivery

Voice technology enables access to more than 12,000 information items through Alexa or Google Home

The UK government has enabled voice technology in the delivery of online services to simplify interactions with citizens.

Some 12,000 items of government information can be accessed via voice-activated smart speakers and virtual assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

This follows a six-month trial that has been led by the Government Digital Service (GDS) under wider plans to future-proof the government’s public service Gov.uk with technologies such as voice apps and machine learning.

While queries to Alexa can range from when the next bank holiday is to what is the national minimum wage, Google Home can answer a wider range of enquiries, such as how to apply for a passport, as well as pension, childcare and tax-related questions.

“This is all about making life easier for people who need to access information about government services, “ said Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden.

“With millions now using smart speakers, I want government to keep up and work smarter too.”

The GDS began investigating possibilities around voice technology about a year ago. Neil Williams, head of Gov.uk at the time, said that as many as 400 services had been identified as potential use cases for voice.

At a press briefing last May, Williams said the work on voice empowered departments to manage their own content and prompted more cross-departmental collaboration because it requires joint work by the organisations involved in providing particular services.

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