Hackney Council plans voice bot trial

London Borough stays open minded about technology choices as it looks towards design of pilot projects

The London Borough of Hackney is planning to test the use of voice activated bots and other consumer devices in a number of services over the coming months.

Matthew Cain, the council’s head of digital, told UKAuthority that it plans to run a small procurement for the design of pilot projects in the next few weeks, and that it is agnostic about the possible technology choices.

“We have capital funding to design pilots of new devices to explore things like voice activated services, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, to help people who can’t self-serve on the web to access council services in a different way,” he said.

“We’re also looking at how connected devices, like the equivalent of an Amazon Dash Button, can help people who don’t have confidence in reordering visitor vouchers (one-off parking permits) and services on the web.”

Transformation approach

The move is part of Hackney’s approach to IT transformation in running small scale pilots to test the potential of technology for specific processes with a view to extending its use if successful.

Hackney follows Aylesbury Vale District Council and Hampshire County Council in trialing voice bots for local services. Both of these have announced plans for pilots using Amazon Alexa software and Echo devices, but Cain said Hackney is cautious about committing to a specific technology at the moment.

“It’s a fast moving market and the entry of Apple might change things again,” he said. “We don’t even yet fully understand the right role for a local authority in relation to those devices.”

A full interview with Matthew Cain will appear in UKAuthority next week.

Image: www.flickr.com/photos/cblue98/, CC 2.0