Council chatbot learns new language skills


ABERDEEN City Council’s ground-breaking AB-1 chatbot just got a whole lot smarter – offering residents even greater access to information. 

The popular digital assistant has been “trained” using artificial intelligence (AI) to better understand queries and search the Council’s website for answers – improving the relevance, accuracy and consistency of its responses.  

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The development builds on the successful collaboration between the Council and delivery partner Microsoft in transforming services.  

In 2020 the Council launched Scotland’s first Microsoft local authority chatbot.  

AB-1 – as it is affectionately known – answers thousands of questions about everything from school holiday dates to how to apply for a parking permit. 

Executive Director of Corporate Services Andy MacDonald said: “Our chatbot already gives people access to information 24/7, and the use of AI is significantly broadening both its knowledge base and ability to converse with people. 

“At the same time, the technology is freeing up council staff to deal with inquiries that require specialised help.  

“Aberdeen City Council is delighted to be continuing our pioneering work with Microsoft and leading the way among local authorities. Most importantly, digital automation is allowing us to deliver the Connected, Responsive and Empowered elements of our service charter.” 

Francesca Colenso, Director of the Azure Business Group at Microsoft UK, said: “Our collaboration with Aberdeen City Council is built on our shared commitment to prioritising innovation.  

“By leveraging AI, the council has simplified and enhanced its services, making them more accessible and efficient for the people of Aberdeen. These developments are a prime example of how the public sector is embracing AI to adapt and transform.  

“We look forward to continuing our work with Aberdeen City Council as it continues to advance its services.” 

The new chatbot interprets questions in relation to any preceding ask, generating more rounded answers. The secure system can even anticipate follow-up questions and will offer helpful additional information without the need for another prompt.   

Mr MacDonald added: “Through our modernisation programme, we are putting even more power at the fingertips of our customers.  

“Using their feedback AB-1 will continue to evolve, and we look forward to taking the next step on our transformation journey in partnership with the people we serve.” 

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