109: Keeping up with the future Web, with John Allsopp

109: Keeping up with the future Web, with John Allsopp

John Allsopp discusses the future of online communications, and what public sector communicators can do to keep up. For nearly 20 years John has developed software, built websites, applications, written articles, tutorials and more.

He speaks with David Pembroke about advances in technology, artificial intelligence, and what will come next.

They discuss:

  • how communicators can use change to stay relevant in the future
  • the end of personal computing
  • why screens make us a slave to computers
  • interacting through our ears
  • artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • chatbots to the rescue

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John Allsopp on the future of government communications:

“For example, where government folks get a lot of inquiries, especially if they spike around certain times of year or certain events that occur, exploring the way in which things triage and communications … Even if it’s not a robot that replies to someone, getting an email or someone fills a form or some other form of communication, even verbal. They leave messages on phones. That can be converted from speech-to-text very well these days. And I would say in a couple years … Already, there’s a lot of work that suggests that, at least at the stuff that’s starting to leave the laboratories, you’re getting as good as human stenographers are at this…

If you want to look at it from the perspective of saving money, there’s a case there, absolutely. But I think, to be quite honest, if we start with a perspective and we’ve seen this a lot with the work at the government digital service in the UK, US digital service and obviously, DTA in Australia. Although we’re trying to get the delivery of government services, not just digital ones, as kind of being human centred. So it sounds kind of ironic, in a way, that we might use robots to make human centred experiences better but in at least some nontrivial percentage of the time, that can be the case. So this is kind of really low-hanging fruit. There’s nontrivial cost in developing some of this technology, but it’s not … Literally, it’s not rocket science. It would be rocket science five years ago in one way.

So you would be employing teams and machine-running experts and getting huge datasets and so on. These days, a lot of this stuff is very, very accessible and certainly with even the kind of regular government budgets that we see around projects. And it relatively falls into those sort of budgets and, as you observe, there are direct measurable cost savings, in addition to you creating a better experience for your citizens and other people who use your services. So I think, to be quite honest, right now, the opportunities to deploy this technology are extraordinary and I just … If I was a little bit younger, I think it’s probably what I would drop everything and focus all my energy on.”


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