Dundee looks to ‘significantly increase’ use of chatbots and conversational AI

Scottish local authority seeks supplier to help support £150k plan to implement automated technology, which council hopes will help free up staff time to deal with more complex service issues

Dundee City Council has revealed ambitions to ease pressure on services and staff by ramping up its use of chatbots and other artificial intelligence-based tools.

The local authority has published a commercial notice seeking one or supplier partners to support a planned “implementation of omnichannel services”. The aim of the tech deployment will be to handle a greater volume of citizen interactions via automated text-based platforms.

This, in turn, will free up staff time and enable employees to focus on the most complex issues, according to the contract notice.

“The initial scope of the project [is] to establish the omnichannel facilities in customer services processes, with the solution allowing flexibility to expand into further service areas as required,” it said. “The council is seeking to significantly increase the volume of requests and transactions handled by a combination of automated chatbot facilities and webchat. Additionally the council wishes to consider a resolution of a high volume of calls through conversational automated intelligence. The outcome of this will see a reduction in enquiries handled by council staff and [increase] the ability of council staff to manage multiple threaded queries.”

The council is seeking to appoint one or more suppliers to an initial three-year contract worth an estimated £147,000, with the option for two additional one-year extensions. Bids for the deal are open until midday on 3 January.

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Prospective bidders are advised of Dundee’s long-standing “Community Benefits from Procurement Policy which includes a council-wide approach intended to secure the maximum economic and social benefits for the citizens of Dundee from city council procurement”.

“[This] will require the successful bidder to work with it, as part of the delivery of the contract in transforming the community in a real and sustainable manner,” the notice says. “To this end, bidders for contract will be required to deliver two community benefit activities per annum for duration of this contract.”

This could include initiatives supporting learning, employment, or environmental priorities across Dundee, as well as helping to deliver community projects suggested by local residents.

The Scottish council’s plans to ramp up the use of automation come shortly after the UK government revealed it has begun trials of its own chatbot – which is called GOV.UK Chat, and is powered by technology from the firm responsible for creating ChatGPT.

““GOV.UK Chat is a natural language interface,” said the tool’s privacy policy document. “This means you are able to ask it a question and it provides a human-like response. GOV.UK Chat contains GOV.UK content and can answer questions relevant to information found on GOV.UK pages.”

Sam Trendall

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