With the aim of improving the experience and the quality of responses to requests, the Government of Buenos Aires unified its existing channels, working under the omnichannel criteria, and in February 2019, a responsive and helpful chatbot arrived on WhatsApp: Boti. The chatbot has achieved a record of 11 million conversations in January 2022 and a monthly average of 5 million. It has become a preferred channel for citizens in Buenos Aires when it comes to managing procedures, requests and accessing information provided by the city government.
The Government of the City of Buenos Aires has spent years working on citizen assistance through different media and communication channels, always with the aim of being closer to those who live and transit the City, simplifying procedures and reducing delivery times. Along this path, the City has been developing different digital products so that residents can resolve queries without having to go to a Government office. The digital contact with the citizens of Buenos Aires was evolving thanks to the incorporation of web products and mobile applications; and also, due to the implementation of conversational solutions with Artificial Intelligence, such as chatbots that made this contact much more efficient and agile. Until 2019, the City had three different chatbots, not only in terms of their tone and identity but also in terms of the channels they used: Web, Facebook and Telegram. Its contents had grown but were limited to topics related to Citizen Attention, Close Encounters and Citizen Participation.
With the aim of improving the experience and the quality of response, a team made up of designers, developers and communicators unified the existing channels, working under the omnichannel criteria, and in February 2019, a responsive and helpful chatbot arrived on WhatsApp: Boti. It became the most used messaging application in the country and allowed the City Government to be where the people are. Through the use of Artificial Intelligence systems, Boti processes user messages and brings them answers to their queries. A great advantage that it has over other bots is its transactional feature, since it interacts with external systems to return a specific response; in this case, on services available in the areas of Government and in external entities. For example, a person can ask Boti if it is allowed to park in a certain place in the City. To provide that answer, the chatbot connects with a georeferenced map of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires through the parking rules API. With this information, Boti verifies the address provided by the neighbor and offers him the specific information provided by the map.
Currently, the catalog of content available on Boti is very wide: first of all, the chatbot is informative. Its contents are aligned with the situation of the City, constantly adapting to changes and novelties. In this line, it offers information on urban mobility, recycling, health, safety, culture, events, public space and tourism. It is also possible to learn more about social care programs such as protection of rights, childhood and adolescence, family and disability, assistance for people who are in a situation of socioeconomic vulnerability or street situation, and care for addictions. On the other hand, Boti allows referrals to interact with human operators who will provide a response to the needs of the citizen in services such as control of infractions or containment in matters of gender violence, among others. Likewise, Boti allows you to make complaints, claims and procedures for the City in a few minutes, through a conversation and without the need to go to a Government office. It is possible to request, through the City's WhatsApp, the removal of abandoned vehicles, repair of potholes, facades in poor condition, sidewalks and lights, tree pruning and sweeping improvements; complaints for improperly parked vehicle, request for removal of debris, bulky waste and remains of works; home gardening, and notification of mosquito breeding sites, among other services. Thanks to its versatility, during the pandemic it was consolidated as the official channel of the City Government to consult about symptoms and prevention of Covid-19, manage suspected cases of Covid-19, monitor mild cases, learn about all the measures taken by the GCBA, take an appointment and find out the result of the Covid-19 test, request an appointment for the application of the vaccine and request the Covid-19 Certificate with updated health information. The design of Boti's personality, friendly and close, allowed us to incorporate other contents such as "Boticuentos", interactive stories to read and play with children, choosing the actions of the characters and the end of the stories, all through WhatsApp. In this line, the chatbot also has tongue twisters, jokes and the possibility of downloading stickers. These disruptive initiatives are an example of the constant opportunities for improvement and the diversity of content that Boti offers.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Boti has been a pioneer in delivering Covid-19 test results and certificates at a key epidemiological moment for the country and the city. It has also been a key element throughout the entire vaccination campaign, as more than 11,000,000 appointments were offered via WhatsApp. With more than 450 topics, 70 integrations and 15 human service queues, Boti has revolutionized the way in which the City Government deals with queries from its citizens. It was possible to ensure the quality of the bot through the analysis of conversations up to the clustering of messages not understood through natural language processing (NLP), which make it possible to attack the most representative messages and distinguish them in various themes. With the collaboration of different providers (Amazon, Google, and Botmaker) they are working on a model that will allow the Bot to perform search engine optimization (SEO), indexing all the contents of the chatbot and automatically learning from the interaction of the users with the bot.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The team that makes Boti work is made up of UX designers, developers, journalists, communicators, data science specialists, among others; who work in a joint and coordinated manner, looking for opportunities for improvement. The different areas of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires that are responsible for and provide information on the services that are incorporated into Boti are also part of the process.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Boti has more than 250 human operators who provide their service through the 15 service queues. Human operators attend a monthly average of 30,000 conversations, while 1,300,000 users communicate with Boti every month. Among its more than 450 topics, you can find content from the Commission for the Full Participation and Inclusion of People with Disabilities, containment of the elderly or care for victims of gender violence.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The biggest result has been a chatbot that received 200,000 monthly conversations pre-pandemic to one that today receives an average of 1,300,000 conversations unrelated to COVID-19. The exponential growth of conversations and neighbors who choose Boti as their main channel to communicate with the State is explained by the more than 70 integrations that make it possible to take turns, manage procedures and services that are key to their daily lives. On the other hand, Boti has a 90% average monthly satisfaction rate, a statistic obtained from satisfaction surveys carried out in different conversational flows. More than 80% of the conversations manage to be understood and in those that are not, Boti sends content suggestions or offers the possibility of speaking with a person. The work methodologies adopted, such as Scrum and Kanban, allowed the creation of services in record time, with a high level of quality in each delivery.
Challenges and Failures
Behind Boti, as a product, is the WhatsApp platform, which has a current limitation of 200 messages per second. Due to this, some actions promoted to channel through Boti, which had a lot of citizen demand, caused the chatbot to have no response capacity. This situation led the team to make changes at the experience level, discouraging all users from trying to log into Boti at the same time; as well as in terms of the monitoring and dimension of the technological architecture, which today has a service availability of almost 100% every month. In turn, Boti has incorporated other channels such as Facebook or a web chatbot that operates on the official site of the City Government. The advantage of adding other channels has been to overcome WhatsApp's own concurrency limitation, a key strategy for the delivery of COVID-19 results in which Boti has faced demands for more than 400 messages per second.
Conditions for Success
From the technological aspect, having natural language processing is an essential condition when building chatbots. The technological infrastructure must operate with services that are displayed on a bus, thus allowing interoperability, security, and traceability of the information that circulates between the chatbot and the different services provided by government areas such as Health, Transportation, and Education, among others. A great human team is needed, committed and capable of working in agile work environments, with a vision oriented towards results and data-driven thinking. The multiplicity of profiles (communicators, developers, testers, etc.) generate a virtuous synergy and a huge management challenge that requires experienced profiles that can pull the set of knowledge towards specific objectives. An organization that strongly supports the cultural and digital transformation, as is the City Government.
The opening of the interfaces of applications such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram or Facebook Messenger, in order to be used by both private companies and governments, resulted in the exponential growth of chatbots. The future of chatbots still has a lot to offer in terms of community service, but it is not the only way to explore. Trends indicate that interaction with bots will be done less and less through interfaces such as screens or keyboards and more and more through voice commands. Following this trend, the Boti team is working on the integration of a voice assistant. Each new technological development can work as an ally, offering opportunities for improvement and challenging us to co-create innovative solutions.
From the Secretariat of Innovation and Digital Transformation of the City of Buenos Aires we work continuously to improve experiences, both for internal teams and for citizens. Outside, our users are the residents of the City. The objective is to use technology as a tool to improve their quality of life, also taking into account the heterogeneous nature of the population, in order to provide inclusive and accessible solutions. The digital divide, both generational and socioeconomic, always challenges us to design strategies and alternatives in parallel to reach all people.
Publicizing the Boti case is an opportunity to expand the knowledge and experience gained over the years regarding the development of chatbots and digital transformation processes in the State. The governments of the world have the opportunity to bring their services closer to citizens and democratize access to information. We are convinced that the conversational channel is the one that people choose in their daily lives to establish their communications and that is where we have to be. All our efforts have been aimed at getting closer to the demands of citizens, understanding their behavior and, fundamentally, their needs. Far from being satisfied with the results obtained, we are working deeply on continuous improvement and quality, while continuing to expand the portfolio of services. We want other governments around the world to be able to see the enormous potential that new technologies have to positively transform the lives of their citizens.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
16 November 2023