Alexa joins the civil service: GDS expands use of voice recognition

Written by Sam Trendall on 24 April 2019 in News
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More than 12,000 pieces of government information can now be accessed via smart speaker

An Amazon Echo smart speaker  Credit: Best AI Assistant/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Government Digital Service has expanded its use of voice-recognition technology, with more than 12,000 pieces of information now available to citizens via the use of Alexa or Google Home devices.

Over the last six months, GDS has dedicated “a small team of experts” to a trial scheme to make more government information accessible using voice commands. 

Citizens with smart speakers can now ask the devices a range of questions, including "when is the next bank holiday?" or "what is the minimum wage?", or "how do I apply for a passport?" and "how do I get free childcare?"


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Over the coming months, GDS plans to make more services and information available via voice, including details on car-tax renewal and how to get married.

“We want to simplify people’s interactions with the government, making information clear and accessible to everyone,” said head of GOV.UK Jennifer Allum. “These results are promising because voice services can be a really convenient way to get information, particularly for people who find computers and phones hard to use.”

At its most recent annual Sprint event, which took place in May 2018, GDS indicated that, although its explorations with voice recognition were at a very early stage, it was beginning to examine the role that the technology could play in the digital-government landscape. 

Minister for implementation Oliver Dowden said: “This is all about making life easier for people who need to access information about government services. And with millions now using smart speakers, I want government to keep up and work smarter too.”

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Sam Trendall
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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.

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