Chatbots for Public Engagement

Chatbots are computer programs that leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to complete tasks and answer questions while mimicking human conversation.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Resource savings: Chatbots can reduce the number of customer representatives needed to answer routine questions and collect information from the public.

Target resources: By allocating routine and simple questions to chatbots, agencies can devote staff attention to more complex activities that require human assistance.

Faster response times: Citizens and customers get faster answers compared to waiting for telephone assistance or scrolling through a website.

Leverage data: Chatbot conversations yield important data to monitor performance or feed back into artificial intelligence to further refine conversations.

Tips & Techniques

Use for IT assistance: In North Carolina, the innovation Center (iCenter) is using chatbots to free up internal IT help desk personnel from answering mundane queries (e.g. password resetting that comprise close to 90% of inquiries). 

Use for assistance in delivering services: Chatbots can answer questions on whether services are available (i.e. if a field is reserved or an office is open), or even complete service requests.

Use as survey data: Chatbots can complement surveys to collect information from the public.  These can be paired with geofencing to answer questions and obtain comments on a local rezoning for example.

Hot Buttons:  The digital divide means citizens with smart phones get what amounts to premium service; ethical and liability concerns; cybersecurity and privacy concerns; job displacement as chatbots become more sophisticated.


5 Ways Chatbots Could Transform Government Services: GovTech  May 5, 2017