Starting from this September, the citizens of Šabac and Sombor will receive a personal virtual assistant who will guide them through administrative procedures and be available 24 hours a day for inquiries on the most important city topics. MIA (Municipal Intelligent Assistant) is a chatbot that will replace going to the counters and will bring great budget savings to citizens, businesses and local government by providing real-time information.
Through Mia, the citizens of Šabac will be able to get information about the issuance of tax certificates, birth certificates and citizens' records, as well as to file for child or parental allowance. Apart from that, the citizens of Sombor will be able to ask Mia about the amount of the tax debt and how to get a certificate of settled obligations for local public revenues. Both will have information on the working hours of the city authorities, all relevant phones, as well as active current events.
The number of digital "colleagues" is increasing in the world, and Sombor and Šabac will be the first in Serbia to get one, thanks to the project "Improvement of municipal services in Serbia and BiH by introducing a chat bot application", implemented by GIZ, SAGA, NALED, Chamber of Commerce of Republika Srpska and Regional Business Friendly Environment Network in Southeast Europe (BFC SEE). In the past few days, representatives of the project ceremonially handed over the chatbot licenses to the leaders of these two cities. The service will be available through the city's website, Viber and Facebook Messenger.
- Our analysis showed that an officer in Šabac needs about 10 minutes to provide information on how to issue a tax certificate at the counter or by e-mail, and 5 minutes by phone. When we multiply that by 10,500 requests per year, it results in almost 1,550 hours spent. In Sombor, they spend more than 400 hours while approving the child allowance. Part of that time will be taken over by MIA, whose role is not to completely replace employees, but to take part of the work off their shoulders, so that they can dedicate themselves to more complex processes that still cannot be digitized - says the Good Governance Director at NALED, Ana Ilić.
MIA is based on artificial intelligence and talking to her is like communicating with another person.
- It is a great pleasure for us, engineers, when we can introduce modern technologies into our society, that are at the same level of development as they are in the most advanced societies in the world. The use of chatbots, based on natural language comprehension and machine learning, is globally becoming a technology that helps public administrations improve their services. This project is an opportunity not only to help better communication and strengthen ties between governments and the population, but also to learn more about the needs and habits of the users, in order to improve our own services - says the director of the Software Solutions Division of SAGA, Milan Jevtic.
The project is a part of a broader develoPPP program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and it also involves two local governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bijeljina and Laktasi, where MIA will, among other things, help high school students get information about the conditions for receiving scholarships and the application process.
- The introduction of a virtual assistant to the local government units, improves the quality and efficiency of service delivery, by making it available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On the other hand, using such digital services and e-government can save time, both for citizens and businesses. Making visits to municipal services and long bureaucratic procedures easier will increase customer satisfaction - said Zoran Jakovljev, GIZ project manager.
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