Civic Innovation With Smart Speakers

civic innovation

Civic innovation might be described as a new idea, expertise, or technology that advances upon the current processes and systems, thereby improving the lives of citizens. Smart speakers represent a technology that can truly assist cities, counties, and government agencies in improving the lives of their citizens. 

We live in a technologically linked universe, where most of our opinions are influenced by our experiences. As the digital revolution is taking shape, digital user experiences are driving brand loyalty through enhanced engagement with the user. We mostly expect organizations and big brands to deliver us a whole personalized experience. Here, one positive experience of the user will lead the loyalty circle and will drive the repetitive engagement process. That’s the reason why organizations have to identify what their customers want and create experiences that not only meet their unique requirements but also deliver experiences at an advanced level. This holds equally true for citizens as well.

Civic engagement

Civic engagement is a process of civic contribution. Communities participate to make a difference in the lives of residents by improving their quality of life through various processes. Examples range from forming an emergency response team for a disaster to using a common platform for disaster response. As citizens, we would want our communities to feel like home, a place that gives us a sense of pride, where we want to work hard to protect and maintain.

Civic engagement has undergone a major transformation. Technologies such as virtual assistants have shaped a lot of information which is beneficial for government entities, businesses, residents and tourists that aids the process of listening (i.e.) a voice to define the direction.

Voice as a constituent of digital transformation

The concept of Smart City is continuously being re-defined. With the dawn of Smart Government, a plethora of opportunities have opened up to connect agencies with their constituents that weren’t previously available. The future of smart governance is in its ubiquitous service delivery, availability, and response to its citizen’s expectations, to solve their problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. To accomplish this task, the Office of Civic Innovation, USA has been experimenting with various smart assistants and Voice User Interfaces(VUI) for various digital citizen services.

City and State governments slowly turning to voice assistants

The use of smart assistants has been steadily increasing, where the city and state governments are trying their best to provide their residents with requested information. For example, the State of Utah was the first state to generate and deploy an Alexa skill for the driving license exam.

What does a ‘Smart’ solution mean to a citizen?

Citizens have come to expect easy, seamless, and fast solutions in their interactions with a business. These expectations carry over to the civic space, and an agency or government entity should provide services that at least meet this level of service to which citizens have become accustomed.

Why is this important?

Technology has become more seamlessly entrenched into our lives through smartphones, smartwatches, appliances, cars, and so forth. Voice is the touchpoint of the future. According to a study by NPR and Edison research, US smart speaker ownership has increased substantially, and the demand for voice-enabled services will only grow.

We are often inspired by the innovative ways through which communities connect to their residents, which is why we have collected a list of examples of civic innovation and engagement initiatives from smart cities.

Smart Cities like Los Angeles and Albuquerque are using smart speakers – Amazon’s Alexa and Google assistant – as an important segment of their government structure through which the residents can ask these intelligent assistants any information regarding their city.

Here are some of the examples of voice inspired experiences.

Voice-enabled browsing – answering questions

The US government is using voice-enabled technology to propagate information to its citizens. The folks can ask a smart speaker some generic government-related questions using Alexa or Google Assistant.

Utah was one of the few states to embrace the voice-activated smart speaker trend wave to enhance government services way back in 2016. The state has constantly been an early adopter of the voice platform for various nuanced services. The skill assists citizens in renewing expired driving licenses, to enroll in various community programs, or to find affordable housing nearby. Sometimes citizens face difficulties in surfing or accessing a few government websites due to broken links or outdated information.

The voice-activated assistants have answers to questions even related to the next bank holiday, the process of procuring a passport and so on. More information is added to the list related to car and taxes, marriage registration process, etc.

Administering and keeping a track of road conditions

Voice navigation apps are an example of civic innovation helping citizens to avoid traffic delays. Here, users can ask smart speakers questions regarding updates of road closures or traffic delays. This skill lets the users to get insights they require without the need for even looking at or touching their smartphones. Smart Reporting on road defects or potholes across the city, based on locations and volume of traffic keeps the residents informed and assists them to find alternative routes.

Promotion of local events

The City of Los Angeles is offering government information through Alexa letting residents find out what’s going around in their neighborhood. It links to city-maintained calendars and data which comprise various government-related events such as City Council committee meetings, earthquake reports, news, and events. This skill lets the users retrieve the required information directly from Alexa instead of calling the government offices. LA’s city skill lets tourists or residents ask what’s happening in the city and get a list of information on events in the area which are funded by the city.

Aiding local requirements

Residents of University Park Texas are supported by an Alexa skill that facilitates library book management and provides updates on various water-related regulations. Before this skill, the residents had to research to find library business hours or water usage restrictions. The skill offers various updates on traffic and news information, customized to their residents. Texas government officials have created a community connect skill to update their residents on local events, municipal services and so on.

Accessibility to government information

Preston So from Aquia labs expressed in his webinar that, “one of the things that are most interesting and exciting about state governments, especially in the USA, is that there is a strong focus on a well educated and well-informed citizenry. “He emphasizes the accessibility of content for citizens to be well informed.

Government websites mostly don’t have the best of layouts, and that problem often makes people avoid visiting the sites altogether. Georgia launched the Ask GeorgiaGov skill which supports users to discover answers to various FAQs. The objective of the skill was to intelligibly answer users’ questions in a few steps. It was put into practice by directly connecting the smart speakers to the same data that is used for their website.

Training and Coaching for the next generation of drivers

In Utah, the government created a voice capability that links Alexa to written exam for a driver’s license. Additionally, users could respond directly to questions and engage in an interactive learning process through the skill. Stats show that Utah’s population is nearly 3 million residents, and 39,000 new applicants attempt every year to get a new driver’s license.

City governments & smart speakers

The City of Los Angeles launched an Alexa skill that can answer questions about City Council, Council Committee and featured events happening in town. This opens the door for new ways to engage citizens and local government. It’s not that this information isn’t available online; it is. It’s that now we are incorporating this information into a more relaxed, friendly and direct experience. The skill is enabled with pre-loaded answers for 150 to 200 questions to cater to the requirements of its residents. In LA city skill, it provides information on local measures taken, various events happening, info on recent earthquakes, news updates and even tornado alerts.

In Albuquerque, the city’s smart speaker skill addresses the resident’s top 150 questions and incidents reports. This elevates the city’s tech-savviness in the eyes of residents. It improves services and reduces the number of calls diverted to call centers. The skill automates answers to common issues such as looking up zoo hours, questions about large-item curb pickup, reporting graffiti, accidents or missed trash. More importantly, the responses to these questions provides the government with powerful insights to further optimize their websites.

How can voice platforms assist in bridging the gap between cities and citizens?

As citizens, we leverage and use technology platforms in multiple ways.

VOGO Voice has a Voice Integration Platform as a Solution(VIPaaS) that addresses the needs for better citizen engagement and civic innovation. We are a seamless platform that enables new channels of communication for governments to deliver digital citizen services in an efficient manner to citizens.

Our technology connects citizens, processes, things, and data together thereby making it more relevant and valuable than ever before. We create new opportunities and voice capabilities for unprecedented economic breakthrough for businesses, governments and individuals.

Ultimately, voice technology has the potential to transform voice-driven experiences to the next level as we approach the future of digital engagement.