Singapore Government partners with Microsoft to explore Conversations as a Platform for public services

Microsoft continues to push its vision of bots and conversational computing with a new partnering that intends to explore the opportunities in co-creating a next-gen government based on the use of digital services called Smart Nation. During the World Cities Summit this year, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister-In-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative for Singapore announced that it will partner with Microsoft to embark the creation of next-generational government services backed by conversational computing.

According to the Singapore News Center,

In the mobile-first and cloud-first world that we all live in, citizens and constituents want public and business services that can interact with their digital lives – intelligent services that respond, act and communicate in fundamentally new ways that can augment human abilities and experiences and do so in a trustworthy manner. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) will explore with Microsoft on a new computing proof-of-concept (POC) that builds conversational intelligence into public services, with the aim of making them more anticipatory, accessible, engaging and inclusive for citizens and constituents.”

The IDA’s exploration into prioritizing the combination of human language, artificial intelligence, and machine learning appear to be the first steps in the much larger picture that Microsoft is painting, wherein, everyday interactions with informational sources are made better by use of the cloud.

As everything around us becomes more digitized, Conversations as a Platform is a new shift that applies the understanding of human language to computers and computing, which can transform every industry. We’re excited to partner with organizations like the Government of Singapore to help transform its engagements with citizens and businesses to seize the opportunities ahead.”

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., gestures as he speaks during the Future Decoded technology event at ExCeL in London, U.K., on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. Microsoft recently unveiled an activity-tracking wristband and related Internet-based service that can track and analyze health, fitness and sleep data, jumping into the crowded wearable-computer market. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., gestures as he speaks during the Future Decoded technology event at ExCeL in London, U.K., on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. Microsoft recently unveiled an activity-tracking wristband and related Internet-based service that can track and analyze health, fitness and sleep data, jumping into the crowded wearable-computer market. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

As for IDA’s rollout of the POC, it will be done in three phases that cover the use of information absorption into intelligent chatbots, the expansion of chatbot capabilities based on user interactions with government website and finally enabling interactions between chatbot and user based on personalized queries.

  • Phase One will see chatbots drawing from a vast database to answer simple factual questions from users of selected public services.
  • This will transit into Phase Two, where chatbots expand their capability to help users complete simple tasks and transactions within government websites.
  • Following this, Phase Three will see chatbots responding to personalised queries from users, further enhancing user engagement by providing an interactive conversational experience.

While Microsoft spoke of using Skype as its premier test bed for chatbot interactions during Build 2016 this year, it seems a much broader implementation is just around the corner. With an entire government willing to explore the possibilities, perhaps Microsoft’s vision for a world moving beyond app jumping and silos of information is much closer than first discussed. Building a chatbot experience into government services should yield much richer data points as to how Microsoft will continue to develop its chatbot experiences in the future.

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