Artificial intelligence and bots are long past the point of being considered science fiction.
They’re everywhere: that virtual assistant that pops up to answer questions on the website you’re visiting, or the customer service representative that sent an instant message while you were browsing an online store.
The chatbot’s questions and answers were calibrated by machine learning and artificial intelligence.
In the past few years, Canada has positioned itself as the world’s next artificial intelligence powerhouse with tech heavyweights such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft—as well as home-grown entities like Element AI, Vector, and Amii—opening AI labs across the country.
Canada now has one of the most significant concentrations of AI talent anywhere.
So, what is the point in investing in the integration of that cutting-edge research with what might seem like a novelty most conspicuously associated with retail services?
What are the social benefits?
The thinking goes like this: As digitization continues to change the way humans communicate and seek answers, chatbots relieve the pressure of public engagement demands allowing human employees to take on higher-level tasks.
Unsurprisingly, a 2018 customer engagement report found that 79 percent of consumers aged 18-34 preferred to interact with companies using channels other than the phone.
More than 55 percent cited messaging as their preferred medium, and 74 percent are rather impatient; they expect a response to their message within an hour of transmission.
Having the right information at hand gives users the tools they need to take proper action — including social services.
Botler.ai is an example of a social impact startup creating AI-powered bots to provide legal information on immigration and litigation.
They launched in the wake of Trump’s election to help users navigate the Canadian immigration process.
Since then, the company released a system to help victims and survivors decode sexual harassment legislation.
By inhabiting a medium—messaging—that the majority of today’s consumers are more likely to use, they are not only enhancing access to public information; they are also equipping people with the know-how they need to take that first step.
In the spring of 2018, issues were raised with Canada Revenue Agency’s performance, with a report concluding that only one third of calls to its call centre between March 2016 and March 2017 were actually answered.
Government-implemented chatbots could help provide citizens quick access to public data and reporting complaints.
They could also be used to submit forms, provide people with assistance in their native language, and save the government and the public time.
Bots are just one technology harnessing the power of deep learning for social impact.