The power of Voice to make a difference

It’s little surprise that the country that holds one of the world’s largest song festivals has made voice-enabled technology a priority in its next evolution of delivering seamless digital government services.

Voice-enabled services are arguably the technology that will change the lives of almost everyone connected to the internet. Consider the facts; at present, around 20% of all searches are voice, around 30% of smartphone users worldwide use voice tech at least once a week, and astonishingly, it’s estimated that around 50% of all online searches will be voice-based in the next year or two.

Voice platforms have evolved remarkably in recent years, and continue to evolve at a rapid pace, turning voice from a ‘nice to have’ path to market for public and private entities into a ‘must have’ solution, primarily because voice facilitates the one thing end users crave, convenience.

Kaimar Karu, Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology, sums it up nicely.
“A defining factor of what will be the ‘next big thing’ is often based on what makes life easier or more convenient for ‘lazy people’”, he said. “We are all lazy people in that sense, so anything that helps us to be slightly more lazy, to put in less effort or work less in order to achieve something or get something is quite likely to be well used, popular and needed.”

It’s this focus on ‘end-user’ convenience that underpins Estonia’s recently published #KrattAI framework which aims to deliver the next evolution of digital public services in Estonia. It’s essentially a vision of how public services should digitally work in the age of artificial intelligence (AI), and one of its core use cases is that it would provide people with the opportunity to use public direct and informational services by voice-based interaction with AI-based virtual assistants.

The ultimate goal is that #KrattAI is an interoperable network of public sector AI applications (agents, bots, assistants, etc) as well as private sector ones, which would work from the user perspective as a single, united channel for accessing public direct and informational services. In the simplest terms, it’s an interoperable voice enabled platform that will make everyday life easier for Estonians.

Looking specifically at the health care sector, the potential use cases of voice are countless and have the potential to improve the value and efficiency of care. Book an appointment with your doctor or specialist of choice through a mobile app that has Alexa integration. Doctors could use voice analysis to identify behavioural health issues. Family members could program their elderly parents Alexa Echo to remind them of the time they have to take their medication. Physicians could utilize voice to text enabled programs to streamline the process of taking patient notes, the list goes on.

Which is probably why voice is such a hot topic in the global hacker community. At a recent hackathon in Italy, voice took centre stage when a local team developed a solution to help isolated elderly people stay connected. Likewise, in the upcoming “The Global Hack” event which is attracting literally thousands of designers, programmers, data scientists and health care workers, to explore how to rapidly hack tech to deliver solutions to COVID-19, it’s expected voice solutions will be a hot topic.

The Global Hack is a partnership between Accelerate Estonia, Garage48, with additional financial support from the European Commission, running from 09-12 April and is expected to attract over 1 million participants from across the world.