The DWP has apparently ordered trials of voice-recognition technology as a means of identifying claimants online. For those who haven’t noticed, the proposal for making benefits ‘digital by default’ relies on millions of people using broadband and computers they currently don’t have access to; much of the software has not yet been released, tested or consulted on; massive IT contracts have been associated with major problems of control and continuity; the development of the system is faltering. And yet we have a proposal that depends on eight million people having something to speak into, understanding the processes and the questions, and speaking recognisably, clearly and consistently; and, because exclusion from the system will be obstructive to the administration and disastrous for claimants, there have to be no mistakes. It seems to be another case where the promises of IT specialists simply fail to relate to the conditions they are being asked to provide for.
Additional note, 10th December 2013. In evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Howard Shiplee explained that a system that was fully digital and online could not be feasible, because it could never satisfy the requirements of security. Banks, for example, require people to present themselves to open account.