ICO signs £800k deal to expand use of AI for sorting emails

Data-protection regulator awards contract to ‘conversational AI’

Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

The Information Commissioner’s Office has signed an £800,000 contract to expand the use of artificial intelligence tools to sort through the organisation’s email inbox.

The regulator has been using the technology since 2021, when it implemented a program – developed by Microsoft and specialist vendor ICS.AI – to categorise and, in some cases, respond to emails sent to its dedicated registration email address. This is used by organisations or sole traders who are registered with the ICO as data processors or data controllers – or are intending to register.

Newly published procurement information reveals that the watchdog has signed a two-year deal with ICS.AI for the provision of an “AI omni-channel citizen services platform”.

The engagement – which came into effect on 24 November – will see AI applied to greater volumes and types of messages sent to the ICO, the contract award notice indicates.

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The deal covers a “cloud service for the provision of a customer services bot which uses AI technology to automate the identification and processing of inbound emails, ingests collected information into a CRM application and applies process automation and auto routing within the CRM application to remove manual processing and reduce the administrative burden, whilst applying machine learning to the bot to ensure it develops and evolves intelligently in lines with the needs of the user”, the notice says.

ICS.AI’s website describes its technology as the “world’s first conversational AI”. The company is primarily focused on public-sector customers.

“We’ve created the first ever AI assistant with human-parity performance,” the website adds. “It means our AI assistant is as smart as a human agent, answering questions with over 90% accuracy.”

According to transparency data published by the ICO for the algorithm used to sort through messages sent regarding registration issues: “The algorithm takes into account the content of the email being sent to the inbox and detects whether it is a request about changing a business address. In cases where it detects this kind of request, the algorithm sends out an autoreply that directs the customer to a new online service and points out further information required to process a change request. Only emails with an 80% certainty of a change of address request will be sent an email containing the link to the change of address form.”

Sam Trendall

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