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Aylesbury Vale signals future use of voice-driven AI


Five-year Connected Knowledge programme points to adoption of artificial intelligence for customer contact

Aylesbury Vale District Council has committed to the future use of artificial intelligence (AI) in its customer contact as part of its new digital plan.

Titled Connected Knowledge, the five-year strategy includes an intent to become the first to integrate voice recognition AI into its processes, along with plans to move all of the council’s software to the cloud and create a central secure platform for all of its data.

The document identifies it as the key area for research, with aim of producing a proposal on possible uses against pre-defined use cases in the council. Over time it has the potential to automate responses to customer demands.

It says the council expects technologies such as Amazon Echo and Apple Siri to provide a viable platform for meeting some demands on its services in three or so years, with customers wishing to engage with it through the technology.

A spokesperson for the council told UKAuthority: “Early development is focusing on making our website and online customer account (My Account) more accessible, with the intention of creating an Amazon Echo skill for Aylesbury Vale so the technology can be used to get information and make requests for assistance.

“For example, residents will be find out who their local councillor or MP is, check their bin collection day or request collection of needles or other sharp objects.”

This contrasts with the approach taken by the London Borough of Enfield – the only other council to commit to AI so far – which is placing an early emphasis on a webchat function with the use of the Amelia virtual service agent from IPSoft. Aylesbury Vale's spokesperson said it will look at chatbots, and a range of other AI solutions, as they develop.

Cloud shift

The strategy also involves completing a process in which all but one of the council's software applications has now been moved to the cloud. This will effectively transform its hybrid infrastructure and software estate to pure software-as-a-service, and the creation of a single platform to integrate data and systems, also to be named Connected Knowledge.

The document says this should make it possible to integrate and automate transactions, and provide the basis for analytics and exploiting commercial opportunities.

It lays out a timeframe for implementation by year:

  • Year 1 – Publishing policies and guidance on the use of ICT; moving key systems to the cloud; implementing a cloud access security broker tool to extend the reach of security policies beyond the council’s own infrastructure.
  • Year 2 – Integrating payroll, HR and finance systems; phasing out desk based telephony with a move to a more mobile system; creating the Connected Knowledge platform; ensuring all staff access systems through an internet browser.
  • Year 3 – Decommissioning remaining ICT assets; reducing the number of software applications; using AI for multiple scenarios; providing commercial services to other organisations.
  • Year 4 and beyond – Making home and remote working the ‘new normal’ for most staff; increasing exploitation of council data.

Other elements of the strategy include increasing the use of open data, developing smart cities applications and using the G-Cloud as the prime procurement channel.

Aylesbury Vale has been working with Arcus Global as a development on the strategy, and with not-for-profit IT provider Eduserv in developing a supporting business plan to support.

Andrew Grant, the council’s chief executive, said: “Our robust Connected Knowledge strategy will ensure we’re using the right digital approach and technology, as we become an increasingly commercial council.

“This will make us more flexible and efficient, ensuring we continue to put customers at the heart of what we do. By committing to this plan we are ensuring the future happens for us, not to us.”

Image from Aylesbury Vale DC, cover imaged of Connected Knowledge report

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