GDS to ‘cajole’ departments into using voice-based services

The vision of GDS director-general Kevin Cunnington is to get governments to roll out voice technology into major services by 2027

The Government Digital Service (GDS) will be coaxing departments into rolling out voice activation to services as part of a plan to be more proactive in terms of innovation leadership.

Commenting in a podcast on how the GDS plans to evolve its role in the coming years, the director-general of the GDS, Kevin Cunnington, said one of the focus areas will be to prototype service offerings that departments will want to explore in two years’ time, voice being an example.

According to Cunnington, now that the GDS has added voice to service delivery under Gov.uk, the idea is to encourage adoption of the technology elsewhere.

“Our role is not to help, but to lead and begin to work more proactively with departments to lay out that roadmap that we asked them to follow, and be much more proactive [in that sense],” said Cunnington.

“[We want to work] with some departments on exemplars, setting the standards and be really, encouraging – cajoling, even – departments to say, ‘Well, now we’ve figured out how to do voice activation of service, why wouldn’t you make all your major services voice [actionable] by 2027?’”

Prior to introducing voice interactions to Gov.uk, GDS began investigating possibilities around the 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 prompted more cross-departmental collaboration because it required joint work by the organisations involved in providing particular services.

GDS has commented that making Gov.uk more understandable to search engines is one of the key aspects of its voice-related work. This is important because search engines crawl the portal’s content and use machine learning to extract voice-based answers.

By using structured data standard Schema.org, GDS wants to provide search engines with extra content to help make sense of pages, something that it aims to improve, along with integrating more concise answers into its guidance.

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