On 25th June 2015, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “100 Smart Cities Mission” with an objective of providing ‘Smart’ solutions to the citizens. The solutions included better infrastructure, clean and sustainable environment and a quality lifestyle.
“The smart cities concept is a big people’s movement. I am seeing that the implementation has been successful. There is an enthusiasm to make their city come first through the competition. This government is holding competitions to move forward and looking for ways to do so,” said Modi at the launch.
To achieve smart solutions becomes important for the 100 smart cities to move away from the conventional methods of communicating like hoardings, ads in local media and adopt smart solution to solve thousands of citizen queries received on daily basis. Each smart city spends around 100 Cr to 300 Cr to deploy smart city applications, but most of the smart city systems are not accessible to citizens at all.
As citizens, we all still feel stuck when it comes to communicating our problems/ issues to the local bodies. The paperwork, the time-consuming hours and lunch breaks still stay the same. The time and efforts we put don’t see immediate results. So is there a way to reach them quickly that doesn’t cost us a lot of time but also provide solutions?
Is there any better way of communicating?
The answers to all these questions are YES and it is through an AI-powered chatbot. A chatbot is a computer program that strikes conversations with the users/citizens with the power of the internet. We’ll have communicated our queries to brands via chat on Facebook messenger or website portals and got our answers instantly, they’re nothing else but a chatbot.
When a brand can communicate to its user then why not a government/local body? As they don’t have any target audience every citizen matters to them.
We have seen evident steps the government has taken to walk hand in hand with the citizens by launching the Digital India program and allocating $480 Million (INR 3,073 Cr) to the program in this year’s financial budget. Where the allocated amount will be focusing on areas like Machine learning, Internet of things, Artificial intelligence and 3D printing.
"Digital technologies have played a key role in providing benefits to the poor. Demonetisation has encouraged digital infrastructure and recapitalized the banks. The global economy is transforming into a digital economy thanks to the development of cutting age technologies like ML, IoT, AI and 3D printing." Arun Jaitley said.
Artificial Intelligence creates intelligent machines that can work and act like humans. This creation gave birth to chatbots. Here are the list of activities that a chatbot can do:
1. The government can always be online with the help of a chatbot that provides 24/7 availability and accessibility to citizens.
2. Chatbot helps citizens file a complaint online.
3. Citizens can pay various tax bills like property tax, professional tax, vehicle tax, e-Challans and so on with the transaction facilities that the chatbot provides. While paying bills online, citizens can get regular reminders of payment before due date in their local language, as chatbot is multilingual.
4. Citizens can request for forms directly to the bot like Vehical service tax form, Birth/death certificate form, marriage registration and others.
5. Chatbots can provide data, reports and update on complaint queries. Providing easy access to various information and service to the citizens.
6. Citizen can login via chatbot using like their Mobile number/ OTP for verification and can also link their Aadhaar services or any other citizen identification stack.
7. Instant replies to FAQs with automating the customer support process.
8. Chatbot can also connect the smart cities to youth by sending regular updates, polls, surveys, targeted broadcasts to a particular age range of citizens.
9. Chatbot can be integrated on various social platforms and applications like Facebook, Website, Android devices, IOS, Zendesk, Amazon Alexa, Google home, Skype, Slack, WhatsApp, Government Kiosks, Physical Robots and many others to strike real time conversation.
10. Chatbot can fall back to live human agent when the bot is not able to answer certain queries and when the agent exits the chat or voice call, citizen will again be pointed to AI Chatbot/Voicebot.
Talking about problems and management, Pune Municipal Corporation one of the smart city launched an intelligent chatbot to make it easy for the citizens to address their issues online. This act encouraged them to adopt a way of communication, where total unique citizens that interacted with chatbot – 19726, Total AI queries asked by Citizens – 100,000+ Total AI queries Answered by AI chatbot – 60,000+ which saved a lot of time of the helpdesk team. Imagine the time required to solve 100,000+ queries of citizens.
Here are some questions asked to the bot:
· How do I link my Aadhar card?
· How do I pay tax?
· What documents I need for marriage registration?
· Tax transfer for property?
· Bad gutter smell behind our society.
Besides this act of answering queries the chatbot was also able to collect citizens contact details so the smart city team could personally contact the them and help to solve the problem. A total of 992 citizens submitted their contact details to the bot.
Smart cities and their chatbot:
The power of AI and data helped the bot to read the query and trigger a response.
What do I mean by the power of AI?
Artificial Intelligence is made up of two important terms in chatbot development, they are NLP and Machine Learning. They both have distinctive characteristics that help the bot to understand the terms/intents typed by the user and also read through past interactions to trigger an accurate reply.
AI makes the conversation more human than robotic. Such conversations not only lead to answering queries but also generate data that helps the local bodies to know the pain points of their citizens.
The chatbot of the Pune Municipal Corporation and Rajkot Municipal Corporation was developed by Floatbot, which is an omni channel chatbot development platform. With the help of chatbot development platform, it becomes easier to build a bot without any hassle as they are extremely user-friendly and code free.
Floatbot has made available the eGovernance services, ULB (Urban Local Body) services, CCRS (Comprehensive Complain Redressal system) and ICOP (Integrated City Operations Platform) services to Citizens over intuitive AI Chatbot and Voicebot. AI Chatbot and Voicebot of citizen is acting as a bridge between the Citizens (living in smallest village) and Smart city applications, thus increasing the usage of these digital systems implemented by Government and ULBs.
While it saves time of both the parties, there is a lot of cost-cutting as the struggle of spending money to engage with the citizens will be less with this pocket-friendly chatbot. This approach will change the way of dealing with citizen grievances and lead to better governance or shall I say smarter governance?
The earlier this technology will be put to work the earlier the changes will be manifested by the smart cities.
Engineering Graduate from top 10 Indian college. Ex-General Electric IT Project leader with experience in delivering complex IT projects involving multiple Technologies and cross-location team. Graduated from GE's elite IT leadership program, IMLP.
A technology entrepreneur at heart, started developing VOIP applications in 2011 under JPC Technologies which has blossomed into the success that is Floatbot today.