AI in Local Government: 3 Fascinating Examples

11.03.20 Written by Futr

The average Jane is a tech-savvy individual. But, we can only work with the resources we are given. People say they still struggle to find information quickly and easily online:

  • They can’t get answers to simple questions (34%)
  • The site is hard to navigate (30%)
  • Basic details are hard to find (25%)

Online services for local governments are huge banks of information, making them particularly complex. This is a problem because the stakes are high – local citizens need access to vital information.

But, many local governments have found a resolution in the form of artificial intelligence. They have adopted AI to guide and assist communities through important processes.

Let’s take a look at the ways local governments are benefiting from AI:

1. Enhancing Public Services with Data and Analytics

Local government staff use AI to monitor and improve public services. Large datasets from internal departments and the wider public sector can be combined to discover trends and predict future outcomes. 

As a result, local governments develop a deep understanding of their communities and how their services are working.

A recent Oxford University study showed where local governments apply predictive analytics:

Hackney Council’s “Early Help Predictive System” is an example of this in practice. Their AI programme identifies at-risk families so that they can intervene with support and benefits before a high-risk situation occurs or more costly services are needed.

Data can be supremely useful in building AI-powered systems that genuinely help local communities.

2. Engaging the Local Community with AI-Powered Chatbots

Chatbots in the public sector free up staff to deal with more complex queries or those which require a human touch. Many local authorities have now adopted chatbots that act as virtual assistants, answering frequently asked questions from the community 24/7. 

Helpful bots can answer common queries, such as:

  • What do I do with the blue bin?
  • What childcare options are available?
  • My streetlights have gone out, eek! help? 

And so on…

At Futr, we recently worked with Newham Council to help relieve pressure on their contact centre, which receives an astronomical 440,000 calls per year. We created a chatbot that assists with parking permit and penalty charge queries.

Many residents in Newham are from minority backgrounds, meaning over 200 languages are spoken in the area. Newham Council wanted to ensure they serve all members of the local community. Hence, we created a multilingual chatbot to make information accessible to everyone.

Newham Council has seen excellent results so far: 10,491 questions answered in 23 languages and 84 hours of call-time saved. They are now looking to expand this service into other departments.

FAQ chatbots reduce the burden on contact centre staff tremendously.

3. Automating Routine Tasks via Self-Service

AI has the capability to walk locals through routine tasks and applications. This will be increasingly important in the coming years as the population continues to grow and local government offices are in higher demand.

Imagine a scenario where parents use a virtual assistant that helps them apply for school places. Or a senior citizen, who struggles with online forms, uses a voice-activated device to pay their council tax.

Self-service AI not only benefits local government staff in terms of efficiency but also improves user experience for everyday people.

Enfield Council uses a chatbot called Amelia to handle routine queries. They are now exploring ways they can push Amelia’s capabilities even further. For instance, the AI could pre-screen planning permission requests or even offer self-certification for buildings that meet certain requirements.

As you can see there are tonnes of opportunities for digital innovation in local government. The use of data is helping to improve services. Chatbots provide timely support and reduce the burden on local government staff. And the applications of AI within local governments will expand even further in years to come.

Futr creates conversational AI for citizen support, live chat, application forms, surveys and more. Feeling inspired by this blog post? Talk to us and discover how AI could transform your local community.

  • Published 11.03.20
  • By Futr
  • In Features