Opening Public Services to Artificial Intelligence Assistants

Jun 6, 2017

“Hey, Computer, how do I access my public services?”

Citizens will soon be able to ask their Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA) this question through an Emerging Citizen Technology open-sourced pilot program. The purpose of the initiative is to guide dozens of federal programs make public service information available through automated, self-service platforms for the home and office such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Facebook Messenger.

A hand holds an Echo Dot from Amazon in front of an American flag.

Last week, participants from more than a dozen federal agencies, both in D.C. and virtually around the country, joined to create prototypes using open data for AI Personal Assistants like voice-activated assistants, chatbots, intelligent websites and automated call centers.

The teams worked side-by-side with Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle, MITRE and Dcode42 to collaborate on ways to help citizens get information they might need faster and more efficiently.

The U.S. Federal AI Personal Assistant Pilot, part of the new Emerging Citizen Technology Program, is combining the most advanced technology from U.S. businesses with existing data to make public services more accessible. Almost three dozen federal agencies stepped forward to participate in the pilot, along with U.S. businesses who are industry leaders, entrepreneurs and startups who have never worked with government before.

The hackathon far exceeded our intended outcomes, with more than a dozen proofs of concepts developed in D.C. and among teams in Chicago, San Francisco and other regional federal offices.

Here are a few examples of the prototypes that were created:

  • A tornado alert and information service from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • Career center resources for the American workforce from the Department of Labor.
  • A unified self-service chatbot for programs from nine different agencies, including U.S. Small Business Administration licenses, Internal Revenue Service tax credits, U.S. Forest Service park permits, and Department of Health and Human Services benefits.

We are planning a new event at the U.S. General Services Administration Central Office next month that will showcase proofs of concepts developed by federal agencies and U.S. businesses. We will also open a new roadmap and suite of shared resources for all public services to use to effectively and efficiently evaluate and pursue adoption of intelligent personal assistants.

GSA’s Emerging Citizen Technology Program unites federal agencies across government through pilot programs and collaborative Communities to develop the shared resources needed to efficiently and compliantly adopt emerging technologies for which agencies identify business cases but no guidance or inadequate resources may exist, including Artificial Intelligence for Citizen Services, Blockchain, Virtual/Augmented Reality, and Social Technology.

Disclaimer: All references to specific brands and/or companies are used only for illustrative purposes and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. federal government or any federal government agency.