Oxford City Council is leading a group of local authorities in a project to explore the potential for using chatbots and AI to deal with customer enquiries.
It has begun to look for support in a three-month programme to lay the ground for the possible development of an application that could be used by the 14 councils involved.
The project, one of those to receive backing from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Local Digital Fund, has identified four services areas for producing a business case: planning advice, highways defect reporting, waste and recycling enquiries, and revenues and benefits enquiries.
It is aimed at helping people report issues more easily and freeing council staff from dealing with mundane enquiries, concentrating instead on more complex questions.
The project involves delivering a methodology for evaluating the suitability of a particular application, a research base to help councils develop the relevant business cases, and a summary of available solutions.
The procurement notice indicates that Oxford has already established some problems in the way of councils adopting chatbots and AI. These include the lack of a shared understanding of the technology, and the absence of an objective evaluation of the existing products and platforms.
It adds that there is also no sound evidence base, which raises the risk of chatbot/AI projects that waste time and resources.
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