State Governments Ask Voicify to Build Coronavirus-Focused Voice Apps
Enterprise Voice app platform Voicify is working with state governments to build voice apps to answer questions during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. The startup will make the voice apps accessible through Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa and is offering to create similar voice apps for any state government for free.
Government Pandemic Information
“We started talking when we suggested to our team that they work from home about how we knew there would be challenges in the world for a while and we know that there are not a lot of voice government apps that citizens can engage with,” Voicify CSO Jason Fields told Voicebot in an interview. “Knowing that fact, we wanted to be helpful in some way, so we looked at how to build out a lightweight communications voice app using content that states already have on their websites and in their digital output. If they have the information already organized, then we knew making it into a voice [app] wouldn’t be difficult.”
The apps will repurpose already existing content from websites and social media channels to answer questions posed by users about the coronavirus and the state’s response. For instance, people could learn what to do if they think they have been infected, where to get tested, and what the government has ordered in terms of security measures. Fields said the company has already been approached by a few state governments interested in setting up such voice apps and that his team could build the apps within a couple of days, although getting permission from all of the gatekeepers to publish it might take longer. The offer to make the voice apps for free applies to any relevant part of the state government, whether the health and human services department or a request from the governor.
“It’s a suite of very similar content that will be useful to any government organizations,” Field said. “We want to be part of the solution, and this costs very little. It would be a good problem to have if it was being used so much that it cost us money. That would mean people are finding it useful.”
The voice apps Voicify is working on right now are dedicated to coronavirus information; the states will be able to expand upon them if they choose, Fields said. Getting the voice apps up if they mention the virus in their title might be tricky, however. Both Google Assistant and Alexa have removed all of the unofficial voice apps related to the coronavirus from their stores to combat the spread of bad information. Instead, the states may want to think broader with their titles.
“We’re advising states not to call it a coronavirus skill or action,” Fields said. “We tell them to grab the invocation name of their state instead.”
At the moment, most U.S. governments have a limited presence on voice assistant platforms. West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office recently launched an Alexa skill to answer questions about government services while the Alexa skill released by the city of Mesa, Arizona lets people pay their utility bills, but in general, this is a new space for governments. That could be changing soon though, with companies like Voicify and Canadian startup Qwhery working on connecting municipal data with voice assistants and the country of Estonia working on a nationwide voice assistant
Use Case Growth
The pandemic is causing an array of organizations to turn to AI for help. Developers like Orbita and Hyro are offering free versions of their AI platform to healthcare providers to educate the public about the disease and help triage existing patients, while the Indian government built its own WhatsApp chatbot to do the same. Many companies are finding a need to augment their customer communications with AI as well as a result of shuttering physical stores and sending employees home. Satisfi Labs created a pandemic-specific AI platform to answer the questions asked of its event and venue clients and Voicify reduced its prices for brands that had to close brick-and-mortar locations.
“We’ve had an uptick in new customer use cases and new interests from other brands,” Field said. “Customers are getting pummelled on call centers and want to shift over to using voice. Brands are like the governments in that sense, where they are discovering how voice can be useful.”