CHIP, the City Hall Internet Personality at the Los Angeles’s Business Assistance Virtual Network

In L.A., chatbot chips away at email volume

A self-service chatbot is cutting the workloads for its human counterparts In the Los Angeles Business Assistance Virtual Network.

The City Hall Internet Personality, or CHIP, is currently in beta mode, where it fields questions from about 180 people a day and has cut emails in half, according to a report in Government Technology.

A pair of city developers who had training from Microsoft and access to its Cortana platform, its Azure bot framework and the Microsoft Azure government cloud created CHIP in two days. It launched the bot on the Business Assistance Virtual Network, which lets users search for business opportunities with the city.

If asked, “How do I create an account?” CHIP delivers a five-step response just seconds later. But if a user asks questions that are too complex or that don’t deliver the desired information, the bot offers its response but also provides an email address for a human contact.

CHIP uses an API to connect to the city’s databases that store its “knowledge” and is continuing to learn. It reportedly can now answer nearly 700 different questions.

In December 2016 the city launched the L.A. City Alexa app, which pulls information from the city’s calendar to answer questions about upcoming events.

Governments at every level have started to see potential for virtual assistant technology to provide quick answers to citizen questions. Chatbots in North Carolina provide basic IT help to employees and make it easier for citizens to reach the services they require.  Mesa, Ariz., uses an SMS textbot to answer residents’ questions, much like CHIP is doing in Los Angeles.

The federal government's General Services Administration sees enough potential in the technology that launched a virtual assistant pilot to test use cases for the technology.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.


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