Cymru 2017: a day packed with tiptop speakers, covering a myriad of cutting-edge subjects. Also, the surrounding hills were very lush.
One of the sessions I attended was Nadira Hussain’s, Head of ICT at the London Borough of Enfield, who presented delegates with an overview of the council’s artificial intelligence (AI) journey.
Enfield is one of 33 London boroughs, said Nadira, and one of the bigger ones, with around 350,000 residents – a number that is due to increase by around 10,000 every year.
The ICT head explained how the council is looking at building on the ‘digitally inclusive way of doing things’ aligned with its customer service strategy, which is in the process of being refreshed.
With the borough receiving more than 55,000 calls a month and its website taking 35,000 hits a day, Nadira and her team looked to automation and self-service to ‘plug the gap’ – presenting an opportunity to allow the majority of the public to contact the council using on-line services, whilst it focuses its efforts on the members of the community that can’t.
This is how the AI system ‘Amelia’ came about. Developed with cognitive systems firm IPsoft, Amelia has been integrated with Enfield’s digital platform and will be used to respond to enquiries from the public.
Nadira said: ‘It’s been 18 months of dedication and hard work. Our own internal teams, including the business have worked in partnership with IPsoft to refine the product so that now Amelia will use script and voice to respond to queries. The next step is to enable Amelia to be talked to – which isn’t very far away’. Amelia is due to go-live by the end of the year.
Indeed, things are starting to pay off. The team focussed Amelia on planning permission enquiries – of which there are 32 different processes, such as seeking permission to build patios, windows and doors, extensions, drop kerbs and fuel tanks.
Nadira explained: ‘Enfield is very ethnically diverse so we’ve had to factor in different languages and accents. The idea is the more she does, the more she learns.
‘It’s all very exciting. The question is: where can we go next with it? Council tax? Housing? We could even farm Amelia out to help ease the strain on our own back-office systems.’
Anyway, here’s a video that Enfield have made about Amelia that Nadira showed during her presentation, which is sure to do a better job of explaining what’s actually going on than my crummy write-up. Enjoy: