UNA – the first virtual assistant of public administration in Latvia
Within the framework of the pilot project, the Register of Enterprises of the Republic of Latvia by using the artificial intelligence technologies established the innovative tool for the client service sector – virtual assistant UNA, which provides answers in writing, in Latvian to the frequently asked questions of the clients for 24/7h on the website of the Register of Enterprises as well as on the Facebook Messenger application of the Register of Enterprises.
Establishment of the virtual assistant UNA complies with the strategic target of the Register of Enterprises that the authority will provide a possibility for clients until 2020 to remotely and regularly (without support of mediators) to perform registration of legal subjects and legal facts, therefore the virtual assistant is a tool, currently already providing support to clients during the process of registration. The virtual assistant substitutes a visit in presence or call to the call centre and provides a possibility to receive answer to the question being of interest at any time of the day and night, besides the provided answers are established by using understandable and simple, but at the same time business-like communication style.
Establishment of the virtual assistant UNA in the Register of Enterprises is a pilot project, which is implemented during the period of seven months with five members of the core team. At the beginning of the project (in November 2017) the Register of Enterprises agreed to cooperate with the Latvian company Tilde, specialising in the use of the artificial intelligent technologies, to create a virtual assistant for the Register of Enterprises. The platform of virtual assistants, neuron networks and natural language technologies were used for creation of the virtual assistant, which helps to ensure that it is possible to freely communicate with the virtual assistant, like with the employee of the Register of Enterprises. The virtual assistant UNA is an assistant for change management processes of the institution, providing a possibility for employees to substitute the technical routine work, enabling them to focus on the work of higher added value.
The key clients of the Register of Enterprises are the current and future entrepreneurs and it is important that the virtual assistant is functional and works in the interests of clients. Currently the virtual assistant is trained to provide answers to the frequently asked questions of the clients. It is important to indicate that the virtual assistant of the Register of Enterprises UNA is regularly learning; colleagues of the Register of Enterprises are attracted for this work, who are teaching the virtual assistant on the preparation of new answers to questions and that means that the virtual assistant is intensively studying from communication with clients and constantly expands its areas of competence.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The virtual assistant of the Register of Enterprises of UNA is the first virtual assistant of public administration in Latvia and, probably, also elsewhere in the public sector in the world, where the artificial intellectual technologies are used. UNA answers in writing and in Latvian to the frequently asked questions regarding registration of a new subject, progress of submitted registration documents and liquidation on the website of the Register of Enterprises, as well as on the Facebook Messenger application of the Register of Enterprises. UNA is an effective communication tool and an innovative solution in the client service area for public administration services in Latvia, constantly acquiring new knowledge on the topics being of interests of clients.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The virtual assistant of the Register of Enterprises UNA commenced the work on 13 June 2018 and since that time it has answered more than 22 600 questions, which has been used by almost 3 700 unique users. Already the first performance indicators of the virtual assistant shows that in 44% of cases the tool is used for establishment of general questions, in 33% of cases the clients want to establish information about registration, in 8% - about liquidation, in 3% - about the progress of documents, in 12% - about other topics. The virtual assistant UNA makes the communication with the client more available and friendly; clients do not have to attend the client service centres in presence, saving their time and money, they do not have to wait for a conversation with the operator of the Register of Enterprises in the call centre, because replies to questions of clients are provided immediately.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The Register of Enterprises, when establishing the virtual assistant, cooperated with the Latvian company Tilde, using artificial intelligence technologies in its work and being able to ensure operation of the virtual assistant in Latvian. The platform of virtual assistants, neuron network and natural language technologies were used for creation of the virtual assistant UNA, which helps to ensure that it is possible to freely communicate with the virtual assistant.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Clients of the Register of Enterprises include both, state and local authorities, as well as entrepreneurs, representatives of non-governmental authorities, who are interested in entrepreneurship. UNA gives a possibility for clients to receive answers to the frequently asked questions for 24/7h. The virtual assistant may be used as a training tool also by new employees of the Register of Enterprises.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The statistics of use of the virtual assistant shows that it is used on the daily basis on the website as well as on Facebook application of the institution.When commencing work,the virtual assistant of the Register of Enterprises was able to answer 15000 questions by using 400 answers.Already now UNA is being trained to provide answers to 17500 questions by using 530 answers. Since the virtual assistant of the Register of Enterprises has commenced the work, it has answered more than 22600 questions,which has been used by almost 3700 unique users.The target of the Register of Enterprises until 2020 is to provide a possibility for clients to remotely and regularly perform registration of legal subjects and legal facts, therefore the virtual assistant is a tool,providing support to clients during the process of registration and communicating with the authority only in e-environment,at the same time facilitating clients to use e-tools for communication with the authorities of public sector
Challenges and Failures
The pilot project of the virtual assistant was a big challenge for the whole project team of the Register of Enterprises, because there were no virtual assistants created so far in public sector of Latvia, therefore we had to find information ourselves and to develop a work plan for the project, to look for cooperation partners in order to create the virtual assistant. Currently we share the experience obtained during the pilot project with other authorities of the public sector. The pilot project made to delimit ourselves from the broad number of competencies of the authority and to promote core topics, to which the virtual assistant provides answers. Currently the establishment of the virtual assistant in the authority provides a unique possibility to be the first representatives of the public administration sector in Latvia, creating a new profession – a chat bot trainer.
Conditions for Success
The success key for the pilot project of the virtual assistant is a team and the involved cooperation partners, because the project was implemented during a very short period of time – seven months. One of the success factors is the fact that there is a company operating in Latvia, using artificial intelligence technologies in its work and being able to provide operations thereof in Latvian. Important support for implementation of the project was support of representatives of government, who emphasize that the State has a duty to make communication with a client more available and more friendly, and that the virtual assistant of the Register of Enterprises is a step forward, in order to promote clients to operate in the e-environment at the time and place convenient for them, increasing the client service standards.
Creation of the virtual assistant of the Register of Enterprises greatly shows how the AI can be successfully used for the work of state administration. Probably, in the further future such kind of virtual assistants will be able to register also new companies as well as will provide consultations not only in writing, but also verbally. In the perspective UNA may become as the internal training tool of the authorities for new employees of the Register. Such technological solutions, promoting also social changes, will enable the state administration of Latvia to become more effective in the future and to better serve the interests of inhabitants. For example, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia plans to develop solutions of the artificial intellect for the portal www.latvija.lv, in order the system would be able to offer customized services for each person, which will be directly related to the socio-economical profile.
When working on the introduction of innovation, it is important to assess the range of clients for which the innovative tool is created. For example, the clients of the Register of Enterprises are innovative and use modern technologies for receipt of services, submit applications for registration electronically, therefore they are open to communicate with the Register of Enterprises also on e-environment by using the virtual assistant. The aspect of the same importance during creation of the virtual assistant was communication with employees of the authority, involving them in the development process of the project, in order not to create an impression that current employees will be discharged, when the virtual assistant will commence the work. Colleagues of the Register of Enterprises got involved in the selection of the name of the virtual assistant – initially proposing recommendations and afterwards voting. Besides, all colleagues of the authority were involved in testing of the virtual assistant, in order a high quality tool would reach the clients. During the communication with employees of the authority it was important to indicate that such tool will enable to use the operational capability of current employees in the more effective way. Customer communication through virtual assistant will enable employees to settle much more complicated situations of clients, thus the labour force resource will be usefully used by performing more qualified work.
The Register of Enterprises is an authority, regularly visited by clients, asking questions, requesting for advice and using our services both in presence as well as e-environment. For example, in 2017 150000 thousand clients were serviced in presence across the whole Latvia, our colleagues have answered more than 67 500 clients phone calls in the call centre of the Register of Enterprises. In addition, the clients of the authority search for the information necessary to them on the website of the authority, which is proved by the number of visitors of the website, which on average reached 10 000-12 000 times per month during the previous year. Such statistical data served as a signal that the information provided by the Register of Enterprises is necessary for clients on the daily basis, therefore a modern tool was created – the virtual assistant, available to clients for 24/7 and providing support for settlement of standard issues.