What Are Chatbots?
In one sense, Chatbots are not new. Broadly defined any type of application which can respond to messages from users automatically. From a certain, perhaps overly broad perspective, programs which auto-moderate forum posts are a type of chatbot, even a service which delivers out-of-office messages over email is a type of chatbot.
Rules-based chatbots which receive or intercept messages from human users and decide how to respond to according to a pre-set limited set of rules have been around for years and are still popular today. But a major explosion in both the interest and utility of Chatbots hasn't come from these, rather, it's has been the rise of cloud technologies and the proliferation of accessible Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning techniques that have led to Chatbot technologies' recent renaissance.
Natural Language Processing and the Evolution of Chatbots
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the field in Artificial Intelligence which deals with a computer's ability to understand human language as it is written and spoken by flesh and blood human beings. Here, "Natural" languages like English, Spanish, and French are contrasted with programming languages which were explicitly designed for giving instructions to computers.
Once, not so very long ago, Natural Language Processing techniques were only available to the academic departments which studied them, followed by organizations with specialized Data-Science teams. Today, they are widely available and have already seen action in a huge variety of fields, including in government.
Unlike rules-based Chatbots, human beings already come equipped powerful tools developed over millennia to interface with the world and solve social problems; it's called conversation. Trying to navigate complex or unfamiliar situations without those tools can be confusing and disarming. However, being forced to rely on human intervention for help can introduce major overhead into an interaction.
Human intervention is a major bottleneck for how many interactions can be undertaken by an organization, and even how convenient an interaction is on the individual level. What "Conversational UI" excels at is providing users just the right level of guidance and reassurance to take actions which may be unfamiliar to them independently. It does this by putting them back “in their element” so to speak.
Benefits of Chatbots in Government for Citizens
What this means for citizens is that they can have convenient, a la carte access to the information and services they require without having to wait for another human being to tell them how, when or if they can get it. Information is accessible and digestible; all they must do is ask.
Benefits of Chatbots in Government for Agencies
The benefits for agencies are simple. Chatbots can scale to allow agencies to handle huge numbers of request for services or information. Under normal circumstances and times of crisis, Chatbots allow agencies the flexibility to adjust their bandwidth to tackle more valuable work and save resources in the process.
AI Chatbot examples in the Public Sector
To date, most states have already implemented chatbots in some capacity. Chatbots have been a vital component in several states' response to the Coronavirus crisis. These tools have shown themselves capable of helping departments deal with major spikes in demand under the most adverse conditions.
Here are some examples of Chatbot government services that are helping serve the public.
Larry the Chat Bot - Texas Workforce Commission
One such example is Larry, which was developed for the Texas Workforce Commission as they were hit with a completely unprecedented number of unemployment insurance applications. Larry, who has since handled 4.8 million queries from 1.2 million users, took only four days to develop. This by itself is impressive, but the key problem that Larry was able to solve is that during a time of peak demand staff were no longer forced to choose between spending time answering questions from the public and devoting resources to productive work such as processing or adjudicating claims.
EMMA - Government Bot for Department of Homeland Security
In the same vein, the Department of Homeland Security has EMMA, which assists the department in answering queries pertaining to services offered by the department. Significantly, this bot is able to operate in English and Spanish and is estimated to handle around one million interactions monthly.
Mrs. Landingham - Chatbot Government Service for General Services Administration
The General Services Administration is one agency that plays a prominent role in the promotion of RPA and Chatbot services within Government. They employ Mrs. Landingham, a slack based chatbot able to handle many of the questions and functions involved during the onboarding process of new hires. Mrs. Landingham can help guide new hires through task such as filling forms and answering any employment-related questions they might have.
NITCO's AI Services Can Help Your Government Agencies Improve Efficiency with Chatbots
NITCO, Inc. has the expertise to help with any number of aspects in your digital transformation journey, including Chatbots. We have the expertise necessary to design, build and deploy useful chatbots with several integrations, including Robotic Process Automation.
Contact us at YourDigitalTechnologyPartner@nitcoinc.com with any inquiries you might have about this exciting new field.