What you need to know
Improving customer service is imperative for governments at all levels. To do it, more agencies are turning to emerging technology tools such as chatbots, virtual assistants and robotic process automation (RPA) which can help make agencies' internal chatbots more useful. So what exactly are these tools?
Short for ‘chat robot,’ a chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation, or chat, through artificial intelligence,” according to DigitalGov.gov. Conducting conversations via auditory or textual methods, chatbots ultimately answer users’ questions or link them to the people or resources that can. Although building a chatbot takes considerable work - cleaning, metadata-tagging and organizing data and tying it to natural language processing and other technology -- the benefits of chatbots can be substantial. These include the integration and management vast amounts of data from multiple sources, identification of patterns based on customer interactions and reduction of the amount of time employees spend on “mundane tasks,” The result is better served citizens and more engaged employees.
The potential for chatbots to use RPA, the automation of repetitive customer service tasks, to automate processes that are currently manual, such as renewing licenses and registering properties already exists. RPA also increases accuracy, speed and standardization and can save between 40 to 70 percent on labor costs, with near zero error rates in both front- and back-office functions, according to a recent NASCIO report. In 2019 the agency plans to deploy RPA on larger, "higher value" applications such as data entry, which will save automate hundreds of thousands of hours of human labor, GSA's RPA Program Director Ed Burrows said late last year.
On the same continuum as chatbots are virtual assistants which are defined by “a conversational, computer-generated character that simulates a conversation to deliver voice- or text-based information to a user via a Web, kiosk or mobile interface.” A virtual assistant takes chatbots a step further, he said, because the technology could involve many chatbots and use cases and automate several functional areas. A virtual assistant can capture a user’s behavior and adapt how it interacts with that person based on activity patterns.
Another difference is that unlike chatbots, virtual assistants are usually dedicated to managing a few users' needs, said David Schubmehl, research director for IDC’s Cognitive/AI Systems and Content Analytics research. “For example, having a virtual assistant [could help] me with my calendar scheduling and/or being able to answer questions and potentially being able to surface content related to things I’m working on,” he said.
One of the more well-known virtual assistants is Amazon’s Alexa. Mississippi became the first state to launch an Alexa skill in 2016. It started with frequently asked questions and has since expanded to include responses to queries such as “Who is my elected official?” or “What is the number to reach the Public Safety Department?” MSI’s Wilson said. It has since expanded to include real-time traffic alerts and news from Mississippi Public Broadcasting, and in 2018, the state made this information available to Google Home users as well.
“We started with the Alexa skill because of the development resources that Amazon specifically had available, and so it was a quicker turnaround,” Wilson said.
The call for IT modernization isn’t only about replacing and revamping ageing equipment. It’s also about implementing cutting-edge technology such as chatbots, virtual assistants and RPA, and the clamor for more of these is only getting louder. GSA's Emerging Citizen Technology Office has an open source pilot that has helped federal agencies make their services available via Alexa in addition to her counterparts Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana. At the state level, the number of CIOs who said AI and machine learning are the most impactful emerging IT in the next three to five years rose to 58 percent from 29 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to a NASCIO report.
Value to the UAE government
Several UAE entities in both the private and the public sector have already been equipped with RBA based chatbot and virtual assistants such as Smart Dubai’s Rashid, Dubai Police’s Amna, DEWA’s Rammas and Emirates NBD’s Eva. Alexa and Google Assistant integrations have also come to light for some entities like DEWA’s Rammas service where enquires can be answered 24/7 via the chatbot.
A clear trend now points to a majority of government services being available via existing virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. This next where customers will no longer need to log in to portals and can process government services via VA’s which can help save the nation ample amounts of time from both customer and employee standpoints.
Read more: https://gcn.com/Articles/2019/01/23/chatbots-rpa-virtual-assistants.aspx?admgarea=TC_EmergingTech&Page=3