If you've worked for a large organization, this should sound familiar: You're trying to follow the “proper channels” for procurement. What should only take a few minutes turns into a whirlwind of red tape the size of a kaiju - a Japanese movie monster.
Corporations aren't the only ones dealing with this red-tape monster. Until we confronted it, the City of San Francisco was tormented by it, too. Its procurement processes are complex, leading to a flood of questions that swept away the time of city workers. To throw them a lifeline, Yeti collaborated with them to design an online chatbot.
Our creation, PAIGE (Procurement Answers and Information Guided Experience), is a "limited memory" chatbot. By leveraging machine learning — a small and controlled subset of artificial intelligence - it takes into account the context of its current conversation. Rest assured, it's by no means about to eliminate the human race.
Still, even with its limited memory, PAIGE can answer about 80 percent of the questions asked about procurement procedures. Staffers who once spent hours fighting the monster now have time for the trickier, human-required aspects of their jobs.
Designing PAIGE wasn't exactly a snap. But at Yeti, we pride ourselves on finding creative solutions to complex problems, and we've alreadyexperimented with chatbots in the government space. Plus, procurement is a complex but ultimately rules-based process, meaning it's navigable by a robot that can translate these rules into human speech.
Now that PAIGE 1.0 is streamlining city procurement, we've tucked some valuable lessons under our belt:
The City of San Francisco's PAIGE system is just a glimpse of what's to come. AI-based tools will become regular features of governments. They'll conduct citizen outreach, reduce staffing needs, and increase efficiency. With chatbots, the red-tape monster doesn't stand a chance.
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