UK Government Offers Information Via Alexa, Google Home

The British government is looking to tap into the arrival of smart speakers and AI-powered virtual assistants in many UK homes with a new trial.

The trial has been running for the past six months after a “small team of experts from the Government Digital Service” worked to allow people to access information from GOV.UK “without having to touch a computer keyboard.”

This means that people with an Alexa powered Amazon Echo smart speaker and the Google Assistant powered Google Home speaker should be able to access over 12,000 pieces of government information.

Government data

However, it is not clear at the time of writing whether this government information will be available Apple HomePod speaker.

But people can now use their Amazon or Google smart speakers to find out what the minimum wage is or when the next bank holiday is coming up.

Other typical questions to ask include:

  • ‘How do I apply for a passport?’
  • ‘How do I get free childcare?’
  • ‘What age can I retire?’

And the government plans to add more information in the future as the project progresses, which could potentially include the ability renew car tax or find out details about how to get married.

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

It is clear the government believes that thinks that providing access to official government data via smart speakers will help make accessing it more convenient. It should also be more helpful for those people who have difficult accessing computers or smartphones, such as the elderly.

“We want to simplify people’s interactions with the government, making information clear and accessible to everyone,” said the head of GOV.UK, Jennifer Allum.

Audio reviewing

“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,” Allum added.

Earlier this month it was reported that a global team of people at Amazon review audio clips of people speaking to their Alexa-powered Echo smart speakers.

The teams apparently review the recordings in order to improve Alexa’s understanding of human speech and make it better at responding to commands.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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