Hertsmere to be involved in a digital fund partnership

Hertsmere are to be involved in a partnership project to examine the use of chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI)  with £80,000 from the Local Digital Fund.

The aim of the project, in which 11 councils across the country are involved including Hertsmere Borough Council, is to look at the opportunities provided by this automated technology and to see if they might offer improvements to customer service and increase efficiency.

Chatbots allow customers to raise queries, get information or request services using natural language. They can be used in messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa.

The Local Digital Fund was established by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to help local authorities explore and build common solutions to shared problems. A total of £7.5m was allocated, attracting 389 expressions of interest from local authorities, from which 150 were invited to make full applications.

The funding will help the project to increase and share understanding of the technology with other councils and examine products that already exist in the market. It will also look at ways to evaluate the suitability of applications for developing AI products to provide information to service users more quickly and cost effectively. A research base will be created to help councils develop business cases rather than duplicating research, and prepare a summary of the technological solutions that are available.

Conservative Hertsmere Cllr Pervez Choudhury for Bushey and Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Performance , said: "We are delighted to be part of this project and to hear of the funding award as we're always looking for new and innovative ways to provide the best services to our residents. We're keen to work with others to explore the possibilities of further automation to provide increased choice for our customers on how they want to interact with us.

"We know that many of our customers still value the more traditional methods of interacting with us, such as over the phone or in person at our offices, which will continue, but increasingly people are favouring technological approaches when it's available as well."