Next generation e-government for Melle

By Agentscape AG December 12, 2003

Moving house, having a baby, setting up a business… there are numerous reasons why citizens or companies contact public administrations, and local government are under increasing pressure to improve the quality and speed of service delivery. More than offering just Web-based information, CASSY is giving Melle’s citizens personalised assistance and solutions to enquiries, entered entirely using natural language.

“No other comparable system exists on the eGovernment market right now,” explains Stefan Covaci CEO of Agentscape that has developed this application. “It can save a city hall a lot of time and money in service delivery, while also opening up a new means of true dialogue between citizens and their public administrations”.

Trial run in Melle In November 2002, CASSY was launched onto the official website of the town of Melle, a town of some 50,000 inhabitants not far from Frankfurt. The results have so far been extremely positive and CASSY is now recognised as the fourth means of communication between citizens and the public administration, after telephone, letter and personal visits to the city hall.

“In the beginning, use of CASSY didn’t exceed around 10 per cent of the population, but we expect this to grow in the same way as online banking has grown. For example, at this time 30 per cent of bank customers in our region use online banking,” reports Uwe Strakeljahn from the City of Administration in Melle.

CASSY is one of 17 pilot cases applying new agent and middleware technology within the IST project EUTIST-AMI . The software agent developed for CASSY integrates two important innovations. Firstly, it is based entirely on natural language so the customer can pose questions in their own words, without having to formulate a structured enquiry. Secondly, it incorporates learning and reasoning capacities, which enables it to continually build its own knowledge base by interpreting new words according to the context. So the more people that use the system the better it works in terms of speed and accuracy of responses.

A 24-hour helpdesk The benefits of CASSY are clear. For the citizen, it offers a 24-hour helpdesk that reacts quickly and competently to personalised questions. Often a service demanded in the evening is already available in the morning. It also serves as a one-stop shop for everything connected to the public administrations, so someone moving into the area is able not only register their relocation via the internet, but can, at the same time, register with the telecommunications company, water and electricity suppliers, the rubbish collection service, identify an appropriate school for the children and so on.

For the public administrations, the system offers major savings in personnel and material costs as well as improvements in the quality and timeliness of service delivery. It can also serve as a training tool for new staff.

But perhaps most importantly, CASSY opens up a new channel of communication between citizens and local government. With the data provided by the citizens, the public administrations generate much greater awareness of the needs, problems and situation of their local inhabitants. With this knowledge, they are much better equipped to tailor and improve their services according to customer demands.