Fingal County Council launches AI virtual agent using IBM Watson
Fingal County Council has successfully introduced a virtual agent, trained to answer Covid-19 questions from members of the public.
When the pandemic struck, Fingal County Council responded by working to develop a virtual agent with IBM and SureSkills Consulting. Since its launch, it has helped to answer thousands of information requests. It is integral to the work of the Covid-19 Fingal Community Call Forum and supports at risk members of the public in accessing non-emergency and non-medical supports and advice 24/7.
The virtual agent is based on IBM Watson Assistant on the IBM cloud, and natural language processing capabilities from IBM Research, which helps organisations create powerful virtual agents that understand the unique language of their business.
Questions the virtual agent can answer include, “Can a volunteer collect my shopping?” or “I want to look at planning applications for my area?” If the agent does not have the answer, it redirects the user to the specific information on the council’s website, or to other websites related to the query.
“By using this type of advanced technology we are making easier and quicker for citizens to access the information they are looking for,” said chief executive of Fingal County Council, AnnMarie Farrelly. “It has enhanced the Community Call Helpline service and is a key resource in the management and operation of our community support programme which we provide with our partner agencies and groups.”
The virtual agent is deployed in a web browser and built with security that safeguards the privacy of the users. It has been designed to continuously evolve and learn through its use and user feedback. All responses are based on information from trusted sources.
Mayor of Fingal, Cllr David Healy said: “There are a number of agencies currently doing excellent work in delivering care to older and vulnerable people in our communities. These groups are currently operating independently of each other and Fingal County Council’s role is to provide a targeted, integrated and coordinated approach to the delivery of these much-needed services to our more vulnerable citizens across the county during the Covid-19 pandemic.”