Alexa, Ask GeorgiaGov: Better Citizen Engagement with Amazon Echo and Drupal 7

Sometimes being a well-informed citizen can involve jumping through many hoops, whether it's a chain of government hotlines or a series of pages on an website. Across the state of Georgia, in the United States, government agencies work tirelessly to ensure citizens can easily access information that is integral to civic engagement, whether it involves registering to vote, paying state taxes, or acquiring a fishing license.

With the advent of conversational interfaces, could Georgians get the information they need without having to pick up the phone or even powering up a computer? And could that same information be made more widely accessible for Georgians using assistive technologies?

Acquia Labs and GeorgiaGov Interactive have been collaborating on an exciting project called "Alexa, Ask GeorgiaGov," an integration between the Drupal website and the Amazon Echo voice assistant. This unique effort harnesses momentum from the innovative trends surrounding conversational interfaces and the pressing need for citizens to feel connected to their government.

In this session, we'll present the what, why, and how of the Alexa, Ask GeorgiaGov project with an eye on its technical and civic implications. Join us as we answer the following:

  • How can conversational interfaces reinvent how citizens are informed and how governments can improve access to information?
  • What is the "Alexa, Ask GeorgiaGov" skill and how does it work?
  • How were Drupal 7 and Amazon Echo integrated?
  • What implications does this project have on issues of accessibility of information and citizen engagement?
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Preston So
Preston So, Acquia

Preston So

Former Director of Research and Innovation Acquia

Preston So has been a web developer and designer since 2001, a creative professional since 2004, and a Drupal developer since 2007. As Former Director of Research and Innovation at Acquia, Preston lead Acquia Labs and new open-source and research initiatives. Previously, he managed the Entertainment Weekly website, led its development team at Time Inc., co-founded the Southern Colorado Drupal User Group (est. 2008), and operated an award-winning web and print design studio. Preston has presented at conferences on four continents and in multiple languages about diverse topics such as decoupled Drupal, responsive design, front-end development, and user experience. 

"Working at Acquia allowed me to contribute back to an open source community I love deeply," he said.