In order to promote open government in Bogotá, strengthen trust, facilitate advocacy and digital democracy, improve the experience of procedures and services and the relationship between citizens and the District Administration, Chatico, Bogotá's virtual agent, was born. Chatico is a tool available on the Web and Whatsapp that enables citizen participation and identifies, unifies, centralises and rationalises procedures, services and information of interest to citizens.
Chatico was created within the framework of Bogotá's Open Government model, which involves strengthening and improving service channels in order to improve transparency, user experience, and increase levels of trust. The purpose of this tool is to coordinate efforts with district entities in the generation of valuable content and to position it as the main channel of communication between citizens and the District Administration. In this context, the General Secretariat of the Office of the Mayor of Bogotá began a benchmarking of bot platforms in other cities with similar characteristics and analysed the sources of information, services, procedures, main requirements and problems of citizens when accessing the Bogotá District Administration's service channels. In the conceptualisation of the project, the strategic decision was taken to deploy Chatico on websites, but also on WhatsApp because it is understood that this communication mechanism is very appropriate among citizens of different ages, socioeconomic levels,and technical capacities. This makes it an effective communication tool with transactional potential; additionally, although not all households in Bogotá have internet access (80.7%, according to the most recent Multipurpose Survey), many mobile phone plans provide WhatsApp for free.
It is also worth mentioning that the most recent Reuters Institute Digital News report puts the internet above any other medium for information and shows that in Colombia 65% of audiences use Facebook to disseminate information, followed by Whatsapp with 40% of participation. The chatbot, Chatico, is a service channel that identifies, unifies, centralises and rationalises information of interest to citizens, procedures, services and enables citizen voting through digital democracy mechanisms such as citizen causes (Causas Ciudadanas), making use of artificial intelligence and interoperability between different District information sources, in a clear, intuitive, accessible and frequently updated language. It is also designed to provide services to tourists visiting the city. It is an innovative project because:
- It provides better services and offers guaranteed access to procedures in a simpler way and under a daily dialogue mechanism. In Chatico, Bogotá residents can consult via WhatsApp or chat if a citizen is a beneficiary of a guaranteed minimum income, find out the status of the Sisbén survey or find out how to apply for support from the District.
- It provides complete and clear information about the District such as: daily news, cultural agenda, status of the public transport system, among others.
- Facilitates digital democracy mechanisms through voting processes for citizen causes or participatory budgets.
- Allows the sending of information, with the citizen's prior authorisation, on topics that interest them and facilitate their life in their relationship with the city: sending a message when school enrolment begins, the process of regularising tax debts, notification of the balance of the public transport system card, among others.
- It puts the end user at the centre, and was built with the participation of citizens through workshops and design thinking methodologies to personify Chatico.
- It combines artificial intelligence and continuous learning of the algorithm.
- It is based on iteration and continuous improvement to correct failures and errors in flows, information and new needs.
- It is aligned with agile methodologies, in particular a hybrid methodology between Scrum and Kanban, which together allow greater flexibility and the ability to modify products and services throughout the project in search of incremental development that enhances Chatico's capabilities.
- It is supported by artificial intelligence and natural language processing, provides 24/7 attention on procedures, services and, in general, strategic information of the city.
- It is periodically updated according to the current situation, but also to what its users request, always verifying beforehand the relevance and possible impact of each implementation.
In this sense, Chatico is a unified and transactional channel that generates answers to the demands, consultations, procedures and votes on the issues most requested by citizens in Bogotá D.C., improving the user experience in its interaction and use. It is an innovative proposal because it integrates different digital and analogue channels of the District and has the long-term goal of strengthening the entire information network and serving people with hearing disabilities through sign language.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Chatico aims to bring citizens closer to and improve their trust in the District Administration by:
- Streamlining procedures and services: Provides access to information, procedures and services in a simple way, optimising time and searches in different portals of the District Administration under a mechanism of daily dialogue. It is a unified and transactional channel that generates responses to the demands or procedures most requested by citizens.
- Promoting citizen participation: It is consolidated as a channel for advocacy, citizen participation and digital democracy in which citizens can consult, identify, compare and decide on programmes such as: participatory budgets in the localities and Causas Ciudadanas (environmental, territorial, educational, among others).
- To allow the sending of information, with the prior authorisation of the citizen, on topics that interest them and facilitate their life and relationship with the city.
Collaborations & Partnerships
District entities were involved in the integration of services and information, specifically the General Secretariat, the ICT High Councillor's Office and the Planning Advisory Office acted as project leaders. Citizens provided feedback on the functioning and expectations of the tool, as well as aspects to improve, maintain, change, integrate, among others. The IT industry worked as an ally in the development of the tool through an open contracting process.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Citizens are the main beneficiaries of this tool.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
In its web version, Chatico went live in November 2021, on the platform Gobierno Abierto Bogotá and Bogotá cuidadora. In February 2022 it was developed on the WhastApp Channel without a campaign nor mass dissemination. On the 1st of June 2022 it was aired more openly. The management dashboard and chatbot analytics allow us to identify, validate citizen preferences and make improvements. In regards to Causas Ciudadanas, from 25 September to 24 October 2021, a total of 5,145 votes were cast. And for the period from 24 August to 22 September 2022, more than 32,000 votes were obtained. In total there have been 45,000 interactions/conversations with the tool. In 2021, using only the website, 5,400 interactions were received and a survey that was conducted reported a 91% satisfaction with the too. Finally, the average bot response time has been 0.38 seconds.
Challenges and Failures
The positioning and image of the chatbot: Currently the challenge is to define and refine the personality of the bot. We want it to be a character that is close to the inhabitants of the city, a friend of those who live in Bogotá, and this means working with users, identifying how they see it, what they would like to know about the character and how to achieve closeness. Although the project is relatively new this is an ongoing task that will surely require developing the team's competencies, reviewing experiences from other cities, receiving technical knowledge transfer, etc. While it is not a failure, there are mixed opinions about the image of the bot. For some, it generates empathy and recall, but we have also seen that, for other groups, the iconography does not inspire them enough. It is an issue to work on and to look at from the logic of brand appropriation.
Conditions for Success
1. Daily analysis of what is happening in the tool: quickly identify what is working well for citizens using the chat (e.g. being able to do a strategic procedure) and what type of information or situation they cannot do with the chat and generates frustration. This is important for the tool's reorientation, coaching and improvement.
2. Having a team with user experience competencies in conversational and developmental user experience to create efficient and secure flows. As well as with the conviction that the bot improves the management of the Mayor's Office because it helps to reduce queues, requests made to the entities for information and frustration due to difficult procedures.
3. Convincing managers to encourage their teams to respond very quickly to information that citizens demand from Chatico, as a rapid response should be given to a recurring request.
Chatico has a high potential for replicability and, more than that, for integrating services from all District entities (one transaction, one strategic information, etc.). It is possible to create flows that are only of interest to local Mayors' Offices (20 in the city) and that can be used by them for their particular processes: for example, information on vaccination days in a locality, voting in a neighbourhood process, etc. Also, the scaling plans for the solution include integrating other channels (the District's hotline, known as 195) and bots that exist in the city; in other words, an entity can develop a bot and Chatico can integrate the entity's information. Finally, and before the end of 2022, the tool will be linked to human agent and video-call services for people with disabilities.
Control processes are an important part for reporting and correction of flow errors.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
22 November 2023