The first artificial intelligence-based chatbot of local self-governments in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina enabled almost 80,000 citizens of Sombor, Šabac, Bijeljina and Laktaši to access the wanted services without going to the city administration counters. They had 142,000 chats with the chatbot in just over a year.
The digital assistant MIA (Municipal Intelligent Assistant) provides faster answers and saves time and money for citizens, which is why other state and local services should introduce chatbots in the work of their administration. This was announced at the final session (held on 26th January, 2023) of the project “Improvement of Municipal Services in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina”, which was implemented by GIZ and the private company Saga, in cooperation with National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) and Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Republic of Srpska, within the develoPPP programme of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
MIA was launched in October 2021, when it started helping the citizens of Šabac to obtain tax certificates, certificates from civil registers and citizenship registers and to exercise the right to child or parental allowance. At the same time, MIA in Sombor provides information on child allowance and tax certificates, tax debt and issuance of certificates on settled tax obligations. From the beginning, both cities had available the information about the working hours of city authorities, telephone numbers, as well as ongoing events.
“At the beginning, MIA was only a provider of important information. This slowly started changing in October 2022, when citizens in all four local self-governments for the first time got the opportunity via chatbot to order excerpts from registers and citizenship registers and to have them delivered to their home address, as well as to report utility problems. After that, the number of conversations and users increased 10 times. Reporting utility problems turned out to be a favourite service, with 298 reports in three months, and in the same period, 181 requests for issuing excerpts or certificates were submitted,” Director of Good Governance at NALED Ana Ilić said.
At the end of the project, the newest service that was introduced is scheduling an appointment for concluding a marriage in Šabac, where future newlyweds can now send the necessary information to the registrar via Viber, so that everything will be ready for them when they come to the registry office. Also, businesspeople and investors in Šabac and Sombor can find out everything they are interested in about business development in the city, incentives, taxes and fees in this way.
“In order to be able to fully make use of all the advantages brought by innovative digital solutions, the public, civil and private sectors should work together. That is why GIZ supported this project, together with Saga, which developed a chatbot platform with the active participation of local self-governments. Given that not only citizens demand the improvement of municipal services, the project is implemented in cooperation with the regional Network for a favourable business environment, in order to offer efficient services, which will be useful for legal entities, companies and the wider business community,” Project Manager at GIZ Amira Omanović said.
The biggest advantage of a chatbot is its availability to citizens 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through well-known communication channels – Viber, Facebook and portals of city administrations. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the chatbot constantly improves its knowledge, every conversation is remembered and used to practice better answers.
“These kinds of initiatives prove the usefulness of applying artificial intelligence and bring it closer to citizens. Also, we are proud that our product will facilitate some necessary activities for citizens and digitize processes that previously required paperwork and queuing,” Intellya – Saga NFG Director Milen Janjić said.