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Article

The Alexafication of Adult Social Care: Virtual Assistants and the Changing Role of Local Government in England

The Alan Turing Institute, London NW1 2DB, UK
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(2), 812; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020812
Received: 5 November 2020 / Revised: 23 December 2020 / Accepted: 11 January 2021 / Published: 19 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue In the Hands of Technology: Care in the XXI Century)
Voice controlled virtual assistants, delivered via consumer devices such as smart speakers and tablets, are being trialled by local authorities across England as a convenient and low-cost supplement or potential alternative to “traditional” telecare. Few papers have explored this increasingly widespread phenomenon, despite its growing importance. This article looks at choices by some local authorities to trial Alexa, within the context of the ongoing care crisis in England, with councils facing depleted funds, a lack of expert guidance on care technologies, and an increasingly complex and fragmented care technology marketplace. It draws on interviews with managers from eight English local authorities involved in the commissioning and trialling of technologies for adult social care to examine how and why virtual assistants are being implemented, and what implications their use might hold for care. Scaling up the application of such technologies could shift the role of local authorities towards one of an app developer and data broker, while generating considerable risks of reliance on the precarious technological infrastructure of global corporations that may have little interest in or sensitivity towards local care concerns. The findings suggest an urgent need for a national social care technology strategy and increased support for local authorities. View Full-Text
Keywords: care; Alexa; technology; smart speaker; telecare; Amazon; England; virtual assistant care; Alexa; technology; smart speaker; telecare; Amazon; England; virtual assistant
MDPI and ACS Style

Wright, J. The Alexafication of Adult Social Care: Virtual Assistants and the Changing Role of Local Government in England. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 812. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020812

AMA Style

Wright J. The Alexafication of Adult Social Care: Virtual Assistants and the Changing Role of Local Government in England. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(2):812. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020812

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wright, James. 2021. "The Alexafication of Adult Social Care: Virtual Assistants and the Changing Role of Local Government in England" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 2: 812. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020812

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