The Department of Human Services is preparing to launch a new chatbot that it says will offer tailored support when individuals seek to access online government services.
Minister for human services and digital transformation Michael Keenan today revealed that the department intended to launch the Platform Independent Personal Assistant — or PIPA — towards the end of 2019.
“One of the first roles being considered for PIPA is on the Centrelink Express Plus mobile app which is already used by millions of Australians,” Keenan said.
“PIPA will be able to ask customers what they’d like to do and then help them to complete tasks, such as lodging an online claim form, or updating their income and other data.
“PIPA will also be able to personalise that support and tailor it to an individual circumstances and needs. For example, it will be able to translate documents into other languages, or offer plain English interpretations of correspondence sent to a customer’s online mailbox.”
Human Services has a number of public-facing chatbots already. The newest of them is ‘Charles’, launched last year, which offers support for the government’s MyGov service.
Others include ‘Sam’ and ‘Oliver’, both of which launched in 2017. The department’s customer-facing digital assistants have so far answered more than 2.3 million questions.
Human Services also uses a number of staff-facing chatbots.
In November Keenan revealed that the department had launched an Augmented Intelligence Centre of Excellence, which the minister said would boost collaboration with industry, academia and other government entities.
PIPA is being developed at the new centre.
Late last year the government released first digital transformation strategy, which has as a goal all government services being available through online channels by 2025.
‘Vision 2025’ earmarked “Virtual assistants for welfare support” as one of its “accelerated” initiatives in FY19. “Virtual assistants help answer questions about welfare payments for people applying for or already receiving jobseeker, parenting, age pension and carer payments, reducing the need for over seven million people to call Centrelink each year,” the document said.
The strategy also foreshadowed the pilot of a virtual assistant on business.gov.au for specific grant programs.