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Governments are starting to lean on AI – Chatbot Jazz is leading the way

Chatbot Jazz

The pandemic has caused worries for many cities about the number of calls their staff can manage concurrently and obstacles for people who lack the Internet or a computer to obtain information from city websites. These tools are currently drawing the attention of municipalities who view them as a way to advance access, for both emergency and non-emergency situations.

The city of New Orleans has released a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence, named “Jazz”, to offer a more efficient response to inquiries from the 390,000 inhabitants. This 24/7 service was created due to a 250% increase in 311 call volume at the peak of the pandemic. Although only 28% of city respondents had chatbots in 2020, according to the Center for Digital Government Surveys, 13% of those were planning to upgrade the technology in the next 12-18 months. This technology is being used to improve access to information for those who are not able to access the internet or do not have a computer and is seen as an important part of the city’s longer-term objectives.

Enhancing 311

Morris explained that chatbots can help address inequality, as it was seen in New Orleans where certain areas of the city did not use 311 services. People in such areas may not have the time to wait on phone calls or devices to view websites, but they can now get instant responses by texting the bot. Jerry Driessen, CTO and assistant CIO for San Jose mentioned that such tools also make it simpler to access info, instead of having to look for it on city web pages. An individual who wants to have their broken couch taken away does not have to figure out which department and contractor to contact, they just need the trash gone, Driessen told GT. Chatbots can answer basic questions 24/7, allowing staff to focus on more difficult and intricate issues.

Bratton Riley, CEO, and founder of Citibot, which serves New Orleans and other jurisdictions, said that approximately 50-70% of citizens’ communication with local governments are requests for info rather than assistance. Bots can easily handle these inquiries, making it possible for call centers to manage more requests. Driessen pointed out that digital help also enables personnel to provide an empathetic voice to people who have had their water services shut off due to nonpayment. Cities build chatbots with data to enable them to understand questions and give appropriate answers, and machine learning can help the systems improve with time. Despite this, chatbots can still be puzzled by certain questions, and need to pass on conversations to live agents. Nevertheless, asking citizens to start digitally can be beneficial because one employee can manage two or three live chats simultaneously, which is more than what can be accomplished with one-on-one phone calls, according to Russ Jensen, 311 and 211 directors for Knoxville, TN. The city is utilizing a chatbot from Quiq and is looking to enable the bot to shift conversations to personnel as needed. These advantages have attracted cities to explore the technology, and each government is utilizing it in its own way.

The city of San Jose

In July 2020, San Jose unveiled a chatbot assistant to help locals with COVID questions and other inquiries. The service was used more than 46,000 times within the first half-year, according to Matt Opsal, a San Jose webmaster and senior executive analyst. The city, which had a population of 1 million in 2019 according to the Census, monitors how often the bot is able to match inquiries with the right answers, which amounted to an 82 percent success rate. Residents can also provide feedback with a thumbs up/thumbs down feature and a newly added comments option in case the response was close but not accurate. In addition, the bot was adapted to Spanish and Vietnamese, which required a team of bilingual staff to review results from free translation services. The bot is set to have machine learning-powered automation to create new translations as needed, but this has been a challenge because not all terms have straightforward translations and the machine needs to learn how the government thinks.

Knoxville is developing its robotic technology to a higher level.

In March 2020, Knoxville introduced a chatbot to address queries related to the Census, but the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the expansion of the bot’s scope to manage the queries about social services and health guidelines. The city has collaborated with its health department to ensure the bot’s data is regularly updated when the coronavirus regulations are adjusted. Furthermore, the bot is being fortified to help provide details about housing aid and eviction rights information by the end of July. A summer employee, who is pursuing a master’s degree in IT, is working to shift the bot away from the Covid-19 related content. Currently, the tool matches user questions to pre-programmed answers, and Jensen is available for live chat if he checks the system and finds someone facing difficulty. In the near future, the city is planning to appoint volunteers or someone else to watch and give live chat help outside the regular hours of call centers. Since Knoxville is a city with a population of 187,000 (according to the July 2019 Census estimates), it has fewer resources than bigger towns, thus delaying the activation of the AI functions of the chatbot due to the lack of resources for programming and overseeing its performance. Eventually, Knoxville intends to switch on these features to enhance the bot’s capability to understand questions.


As you can see, chatbots like “Jazz” appear to be the future front line for many cities and towns, the Artificial Intelligence arena is constantly growing and expanding and is creating more information equality than has ever existed in the past. These new technologies are not only available to large corporations and governments though, things like Jasper and ChatGPT are publicly available and easy to use. This is no doubt the future of the internet.