The city of Atlanta is reportedly mulling the idea of implementing chatbots to help improve its 311 service. While many cities have pushed to move the service online and add functionality through apps, this would represent something of a novel innovation for one of the largest cities in the southern United States.
According to State Scoop, an online publication focused on IT in government, the bot would be able to intelligently field citizen inquiries and respond in a conversational manner with responses based upon its automated searches of the system’s website. Through machine learning, based in part upon user feedback, it would then improve over time in terms of accuracy.
This stands in contrast to the current digital way that citizens interface with the service, which typically involves scrolling through a a website looking for canned answers to frequently asked questions. Otherwise, they have to make a phone call to a live representative.
“If the user calls the 311 line, they will need to call during service hours, which may or may not be convenient for the user,” Kirk Talbott, deputy CIO of Atlanta, told State Scoop. “If the user visits the website, they can only search for the answers to their questions in the way that the city has already documented them. A good chatbot does not have either of these limitations.”
Pioneered by Baltimore in the mid 1990s, dialing 311 has become the de facto way to get quick access to non-emergency municipal services in many cities throughout North America. With a metro area of 5.8 million as of 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Atlanta is one of the cities in the nation that could stand to gain the most benefits by increasing efficiency and convenience in its public services.
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