Inter-municipal Chatbot MUNI - Aarhus
MUNI is an innovative chatbot project that brings together 36 municipalities (and potentially up til 78 municipalities) in Denmark to explore how AI and chatbot technology can enhance the interface between citizens and government services. In 2022, the "MUNI project" was awarded the Danish Innovation Award.
The next big step is to improve accessibility by adding voice technology to MUNI’s capabilities. Introducing voice technology could serve as a potential solution for individuals who face accessibility challenges when accessing public services. Se article: Accessing Danish digital public services - - Eurocities
The chatbot project aims to supplement and potentially replace traditional self-service solutions with AI-powered alternatives that allow for more efficient and user-friendly interactions between citizens and the government. MUNI has been able to integrate with various municipal call centers and self-service systems such as Puzzel and Selvbetjening.nu, among others.
One of the key benefits of MUNI is the optimized utilization of shared resources, while allowing individual municipalities to tailor their offerings to local needs. MUNI is a new setup and design that enables all municipalities in Denmark to use AI and chatbots for their citizens, with a plug-and-play concept that makes it easy to scale up the rollout. Moreover, any municipality can take over control of the project and build local areas, as Viborg municipality has done with its own version of the chatbot named Victor.
MUNI has become the new "colleague" for municipalities in Denmark, as it can handle an unlimited number of inquiries simultaneously and frees up skilled employees to focus on more complex cases.
The MUNI project has significant potential for scalability and customization. This project is a promising example of how AI solutions can transform traditional government services into more efficient, accessible, and user-friendly services that meet the needs of citizens.
Chatbot technology can replace or supplement traditional self-service solutions and websites, making it more accessible and user-friendly for citizens. The project is scalable and can be integrated by multiple municipalities, making it a comprehensive service across the country. Furthermore, the chatbot can be customized to meet local requirements. By reducing the number of inquiries through phone calls and personal visits, the project has significant potential to increase efficiency.
Data and information security are of utmost importance, particularly when dealing with sensitive citizen data. The project has made extensive efforts to prioritize data security and protect citizens' personal data and privacy. However, the Schrems II decision has raised questions about the data processing agreement, leading the project to conduct additional legal analyses. ComplyCloud has been commissioned to prepare a Transfer Impact Assessment (TIA) and a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) to address these concerns. The DPIA confirms that the processing of personal data is legal and only occurs for explicit, specific, and legitimate purposes, without exceeding what is necessary to fulfill those purposes.
IBM and the DDH Chatbot Working Group conducted user tests to evaluate the chatbot's usability and accessibility. The tests included users with and without visual impairments, and the results showed that the chatbot is generally user-friendly. However, areas for improvement related to visibility, information, and overall accessibility were identified. The tests also assessed citizen engagement, with a focus on the chatbot's ability to meet citizens' needs and expectations. The tests revealed that while the chatbot is effective in answering basic inquiries, it could be improved to better address more complex and specialized questions.
COVID-19 has also influenced citizens' preferred channels for contacting the public sector, where self-service solutions and phone contact have increased in the period 2019-2021, while email and physical visits have decreased in the same period. In 2022, one out of three citizens prefer to contact the public sector by phone. 33% of Danish citizens feel that the public sector is not doing enough to help them use digital self-service solutions. As Denmark uses mandatory digital self-service, there may be challenges for certain parts of the population.
In 2022, the "MUNI project" led by Aarhus Municipality was awarded the Danish Innovation Award, on behalf of 36 municipalities (https://www.digitaliseringsprisen.dk/tidligere-deltagere ). The aim of the Danish Innovation Award is to acknowledge and encourage successful digitalization initiatives in the public sector, which have become crucial for delivering efficient services. Various digitalization projects have provided exemplary solutions to citizens, regardless of their size.
The MUNI project was lauded by the judges for its broad municipal collaboration and innovative use of new technology. It enables economies of scale while allowing for individual solutions at the municipal level. Deep integrations with technical systems and continuous development ensure that the solution remains relevant for public engagement with citizens in the future.
One of the key benefits of the MUNI project is its potential to reduce costs for municipalities while improving citizen engagement. By providing a cheap channel for citizen inquiries, the chatbot can significantly reduce the workload on traditional channels like the telephone and physical presence. Additionally, by integrating with specialized systems and self-service solutions, the chatbot can provide personalized guidance and assistance to citizens, reducing the need for expensive staff resources.
Furthermore, the scalability of the project is impressive, with new municipalities taking advantage of the chatbot without significant cost or resource needed. The project's breadth continues to expand, with new areas developed every year, and the goal for 2023 being to have the chatbot featured on all municipalities' homepages. Additionally, the project's depth is also expanding, with new integrations, personalized access to information, and voicebot technology being developed and tested.
Since its launch in August 2020, the MUNI chatbot had more than 300,000 conversations with the Danish citizens. During 2022 the chatbot answered 25% of the total number of queries from Danish citizens to the Digital Hotline including both call center calls and chatbot conversations. Despite the high percentage, the data does not show a reduction in call center calls, so currently the Digital Hotline has seen an increase in queries from the Danish citizens and a service extension rather than a different channel usage.
Volume is an important parameter, but the user experience is equally important. Since the launch in 2020, 10,000 citizens rated their experience with the chatbot, and on average they rated the service 2.43 out of 3. For the citizens who did not get the help they needed, there is an alternative. It is essential that the citizens always receive the help they need, so if the chatbot is not able to give a sufficient answer, the citizens can choose to talk to an agent from the call center in the Digital Hotline. It works seamlessly - If the chatbot cannot provide a helpful answer, and the citizen keeps asking the same question, the chatbot will simply offer to make a callback, and the citizen will be contacted by an agent from the call center. Since the launch of the chatbot 950 citizens have asked for a callback.
See videolink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXl-wA7aNR0
The project team also facilitates workshops and other collaboration activities to co-create the chatbot with the municipalities and citizens. These activities aim to ensure that the chatbot’s functionality, content, and design are user-friendly and effective in addressing the specific needs of each municipality.
Moreover, co-creation is also used to continuously improve and update the chatbot. The project team collects feedback from citizens and municipalities and uses it to optimize the chatbot's performance and make it more user centric. By involving stakeholders in the development and improvement of the chatbot, the MUNI-project ensures that the technology is relevant, effective, and user-friendly for all parties involved.
We have made a continuous effort to design the service user centric. Thats why, we engaged with the in-house "Center of Innovation" (CFIA: https://cfiaarhus.dk/ ), which facilitates and executes design-driven innovation processes to ensure excellent coherence between the political and strategic leadership, employees, and citizens. For instance, in our new project aimed at integrating voice technology into the municipality's capabilities, we collaborate with CFIA to define the challenge and refine the goal by listening to citizens' perceived needs and experiences with the system/challenge. Together with employees and citizens, we create prototypes and test potential solutions, translating citizen insights into action.
In doing so, we maintain a focus on value creation and realization. E.g., we have a made a partnership with CFIA concerning our new VOICE project where CFIA commits approximately 50 hours with a) creating a test design, b) conducting a workshop/user test, and c) following up on it.
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJ1c0Rxla7M