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Bromsgrove District Council is to help explore how Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) could help deliver local services, in a partnership project that has secured £80,000 from the Government.

The work will look at whether and how councils could use the technology to improve customer service and efficiency.

Chatbots allow customers to raise queries, get information or request services using natural language. Their uses include on websites, in messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, and in virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa.

Bromsgrove has partnered with 13 other councils, led by Oxford City Council, to explore the issues between now and April 2019. A bid to the Local Digital Fund for £80,000 to support the work has now been approved. The fund from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is to help local authorities explore and build common solutions to shared problems.

The main aims of the work are to improve local government understanding of the technology, examine products that already exist in the market, and share all the findings with all councils. It will also look at ways for councils to evaluate the suitability of their applications for developing AI products that could provide information to customers more quickly and cost effectively.

It aims to create a research base that councils will be able to use to develop business cases rather than duplicating research, and prepare a summary of the technological solutions that are available.

Cllr Brian Cooper, Bromsgrove District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Finance and Enabling, said: “We welcome this funding award. Councils everywhere face similar challenges when it comes to deciding if and how the latest technology could benefit our residents. The idea of this new project is to save time and money by giving councils that want to consider AI tools a shared research base to start from, rather than starting from scratch and re-inventing the wheel.”

The partner authorities are:

  • Oxford City Council (project lead)
  • Adur and Worthing Councils
  • Bolsover District Council
  • Bromsgrove District Council
  • Calderdale Council
  • Cheltenham Borough Council
  • Doncaster Council
  • Hertsmere District Council
  • North East Derbyshire District Council
  • Preston City Council
  • Redditch Borough Council
  • Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Surrey County Council