V-Government takes voice to Web

NetByTel initiative is aimed at enabling telephone users to access Web-based government services

NetByTel Inc., which has been providing voice-access solutions to private

industry for some time, has launched a "v-Government" initiative aimed at

enabling telephone users to access Web-based government services.

Based on Voice XML (VXML) technology, NetByTel's solution will offer

an audio version of the government services available via PC.

XML (Extensible Markup Language) "tags" digital data so that similar

kinds of data can be pulled from various sources and displayed in a number

of different ways on a Web page. VXML does the same, except that it enables

the data to be "displayed" in an audio form.

In the v-Government initiative, a Web-based service that enables someone

to request government forms and publications using a PC, for example, also

would be available to someone using a telephone to access the system.

Governments have been very active in making their Web-based services

work well with PCs but seem to have forgotten that many of their constituents

still don't have access to the Internet, said Paul Karch, director of government

affairs for NetByTel.

Furthermore, interactive voice-recognition technology, which has been

around for 15 years, "has proven to be a bear to fold into the newer world

of the Web," he said. But VXML will now enable governments to use their

existing infrastructure to feed voice-based applications into the same back-end

enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management applications

they now use to handle information from Web services.

Applications such as citizen and employee surveys can be voice-enabled

within a week using NetByTel technology, Karch said, and could be the first

kinds of phone services governments will opt for. Other types of services

will take longer to implement, although he believes less complex applications

such as literature requests and location finders may be seen within the

next six months.

The company has other applications such as license renewals under development

and is in final negotiations with one state for v-Government services, Karch

said, but he wouldn't reveal its name.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be

reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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