Keeping citizens informed with AI-powered customer experiences in government

Chatbots in the government sector can help provide relevant information and offer citizens quick resolution times and quality customer service. Learn how!

Ana Rukavina

We easily navigate through online banking, order groceries with a tap, and video chat with loved ones across continents. Why can’t our governments interact the same way with us?

In this age of instant information and constant connection, the outdated communication strategies of many governments leave citizens feeling unheard and disconnected. 

According to McKinsey, the citizen satisfaction score (CSS) for private-sector services is 2.5 times higher than CSS for government services. That is why governments need to find new ways to deliver much-needed customer services to meet their constituents’ needs.

Imagine a government that instantly answers FAQs and tailors policies to individual needs. Next, envision a system where citizens can find their nearest polling booths or where garbage collection days are aligned with a constituents’ demographic and behaviors.

Now, enter AI-powered conversational experiences into the conversation.

What problems do citizens face? 

Oftentimes, government websites resemble legal documents more than user-friendly guides. Citizens might struggle to understand bureaucratic jargon, and personalized assistance feels like a distant dream. 

If they couldn’t find the needed information, they might simultaneously contact multiple departments over various channels. They can even wait an hour for an agent to answer, only to receive confusing instructions.  

All this provides a considerable workload for government staff answering the same question repeatedly rather than focusing on more important tasks. Deloitte’s study found that automating federal employee tasks could save 96.7 million to 1.2 billion work hours per year and $3.3 to $41.1 billion in costs. 

And according to Gartner: 

60%

of government organizations will prioritize business process automation by 2026

35%

of government legacy applications will be replaced by low-code solutions maintained by fusion teams by 2025

These citizen-experience journeys can be enhanced with chatbots and vastly improve citizen satisfaction.

While many consumers are already familiar with chatbots since they are a part of almost every customer service in the private sector, they aren’t as utilized in the public sector. In fact, there might be more significant potential in the public sector than in the private sector.

What are chatbots for government?

A government chatbot is an AI-powered computer program designed to transform citizen-government communication.

They simulate conversations with citizens and offer information, guidance, and assistance on various government processes and public services. 
 
Imagine it as a readily available assistant, always available to answer questions and guide citizens through complex government processes. 

Benefits for citizens 

Every citizen needs to use government services occasionally – when renewing their license, paying a parking ticket, voting, or changing their home address.  

Per the Center for Digital Government’s study, most citizens prefer to do it digitally and think governments need to adopt more innovative technologies in their everyday work.  

72%

of citizens want to access government information via smartphone

62%

of citizens want their government to adopt more innovative technology

Here’s where government chatbots come into play and help citizens get fast and easy access to their local governments:  

24/7 availability  

Chatbots don’t need sleep or breaks, so citizens can get help and information anytime, anywhere, regardless of business hours or time zones.  

Picture a lost passport in New York. A French citizen facing this stressful situation could have used their local government’s chatbot at 2 AM instead of waiting for the embassy to open. The chatbot provided all the information needed for a new passport application, saving time and reducing anxiety in a foreign city. 

Personalized information delivery  

When a citizen looks for information, it is probably for him, not his neighbor. So, why would they navigate through irrelevant information when they can get a personalized experience that meets their exact needs?  

AI chatbots use machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and natural language understanding to understand user intent and respond to an inquiry naturally. 

They effectively learn from every interaction and improve over time. This means the chatbot can tailor public information to the individuals’ needs and preferences. 

Multilingual support 

Let’s take India for example. The language of government, business, and public life is English, spoken by just 14% of their 1.4 billion population.  

If their government site is only available in English would leave a vast number of the population unable to access government programs and important information because of language barriers.  

Consequently, a multilingual chatbot becomes a game changer. It can automatically detect user’s browser language preferences or offer a language selection menu, interact with citizens in their preferred language, and offer personalized experiences.  

Chatbots can also bridge the gap for users with visual impairments or speech difficulties with text-to-speech and speech-to-text functionality.  

Benefits for governments 

Usually, many citizen requests are repetitive, and public sector managers are often limited in their ability to address citizen complaints simply by hiring new staff. Because the public sector is often faced with a limited budget, staff availability, or restrictions on hiring. 

Driven by technology trends, the public sector is modernizing its systems, with chatbots offering a 24/7 supplement to government call centers for daily citizen questions. 

The potential impact of AI in the public sector not only increases citizen satisfaction, but also reduces agent workload and friction points, increases efficiency and productivity, saves time, and reduces costs. 

Increased efficiency and productivity  

53%

of respondents find accessing public services frustrating

Source: Accenture 

Chatbots can break down complex processes into manageable steps, adapt their guidance based on your responses, and provide clarification or alternative paths.  

They can instantly answer FAQs, saving time for agents who would need to learn the answers or search for them. 

Chatbots can guide users through online forms, automatically fill in the relevant data, and minimize errors. 

Automating tedious tasks also reduces service costs, frees up employee time, and improves citizen satisfaction.  

There is an estimated $480 billion productivity effect of generative AI on the public sector and adjacent industries. To put this into perspective, private sector firms have combined automation and lean management to reduce processing times by up to 80%

Data-driven decision-making 

With data-driven strategies, governments can base their tactics on evidence rather than intuition and guesswork. By analyzing citizen behavior, preferences, and needs, governments can create personalized and tailored experiences for each citizen

In conclusion, AI-powered chatbots empower governments to make more informed and effective choices, foster stronger connections, and increase customer engagement. 

60%

of government AI and data analytics investments will impact operational decisions in real time by 2026

Source: Gartner 

Improved transparency and accountability 

Chatbots can help make complex government processes more accessible to citizens by explaining everything they need to know in a simple and clear way. 

This can help promote transparency and accountability, fostering trust between citizens and the government. 

Chatbots for governments have many benefits, and the best way to illustrate their benefits is by giving real-life examples. 

Government chatbot use cases 

Elections 

Brazilian Superior Electoral Court (TSE) launched a virtual assistant by integrating a WhatsApp API with Infobip’s Answers to facilitate access to relevant information about the elections.   

The chatbot answers 16 questions about key dates in the election calendar, polling places, positions up for grabs, what is allowed and prohibited on election day, biometric registration, and the use of biometrics. 

Also, the chatbot is used to clarify fake news involving the electoral process.  

Provide general information 

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), with Infobip’s technology, launched a WhatsApp chatbot called MyBMC.  

MyBMC chatbot assists citizens, tourists, and businesses in Mumbai to reach out to the administration, seek support, and access various resources. 

Citizens can find information about nearby amenities (schools, civic services, and tourist destinations). They can also directly register complaints, apply for festival permissions, and renew licenses

Schedule appointments 

MISSI is Mississippi’s first chatbot for government that helps residents or visitors of the government website around the clock with any questions about the state.  

To access MISSI, visitors can click on the Magnolia chat icon on the right-hand side of the screen or through voice assistant Alexa or Google Assistant

MISSI can help schedule appointments with the Driver Service Bureau, renew hunting licenses, find employment in Mississippi, and provide more information about states’ emblems and symbols.  

Register for services 

The New York State Department of Labor chatbot answers basic questions about New York unemployment benefits and guides users through filing claims, managing payments, and verifying their identity. It also offers links to further resources and support. 

Address specific concerns  

Australian Taxation Office introduced a chatbot named Alex to help people and businesses with all taxation-related questions, including property rights, income, and deduction, and filing returns. The virtual assistant takes you to your desired content, saving time and generating a better navigation experience.  

Public health  

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship in Jordan, with Infobip’s help, launched its first virtual government service center by activating an automated helpdesk chatbot over a verified WhatsApp channel. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Mistry wanted to communicate accurate and trustworthy information with residents during the global pandemic. The user-friendly and accessible platform offers residents timely updates from several governmental institutions.  

Building trust and transparency 

These examples of government chatbots show the promising potential for improving citizen engagement and service delivery, but there are also several possible issues to consider.  

As you know, chatbots need data – they are built on vast amounts of data and collect personal information to learn and better understand user inputs.  

All this data needs to be stored, which leaves citizens susceptible to several potential risks, including data breaches, information misuse, privacy violations, surveillance, and profiling.  

If they are built on a particular type of data, for example, if specific demographics were not included in the training set, they can be biased and further reinforce discrimination

Therefore, governments and developers need to:  

Implement robust data security – Employing cutting-edge encryption throughout the data lifecycle can significantly reduce the risks of unauthorized access.  

75%

of government CIOs will be responsible for security beyond IT by 2025

Source: Gartner 

Conduct regular security audits Regular testing and vulnerability assessments help identify and address potential weaknesses before they are exposed or exploited.  

Establish strong data protection regulations – Governments should write privacy policies explaining what data is collected, why, how it is used, and with whom it is shared. This includes granting users access to rectify or erase their data. 

50%

of government organizations will establish formal accountability structures for data sharing

Source: Gartner 

Ensure accurate and unbiased information – Chatbots must be trained on diverse factual datasets reflecting various perspectives to avoid data bias.  

Be accountable for errors – Users should be informed of errors or data breaches and what steps are taken to prevent them. It would be beneficial if independent bodies reviewed how governments and developers handle processes to ensure transparency.  

Integrate human-in-the-loop – Even though chatbots greatly assist humans in mundane tasks, this must work both ways. In some cases, chatbots won’t be able to answer users’ complex questions, which is why it is essential to have human oversight and support

Prioritize data education – Governments should clearly communicate about chatbot capabilities and data usage.  

By implementing these strategies, government agencies can build trust and transparency with citizens and ensure their chatbots are valuable tools for improving government-citizen relations.  

It is important to remember that building trust is an ongoing process, requiring continuous effort and adaptation based on user feedback and evolving technological capabilities. 

The future of citizen engagement 

The future where governments anticipate citizens’ needs before they even ask – healthcare systems reaching out for preventative screening or identifying citizens likely to benefit from special government programs or education initiatives – could happen sooner than expected.  

But how can we help promote this? We all should be informed citizens who explore the latest trends in tech, understand benefits and limitations, share our thoughts and concerns, and advocate for change.  

Our job is to urge governments to explore and adopt these tools with transparency and accountability.  

Remember, a responsible and innovative government starts with an engaged and informed citizen.  

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Feb 14th, 2024
10 min read

Ana Rukavina