What's New in City Design

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