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Commentary: Using Interoperability to Feed the Chatbot, Make Life Better

Government agencies have a tendency to procure vendor-based systems, applications, websites and more, which often limit capabilities and prevent a focus on data integrations or sharing information across systems.

One challenge, not with chatbots, but in government organizations, is the inability to feed chatbots data from various applications and systems, such as Frequently Asked Questions from websites. Government agencies have a tendency to procure vendor-based systems, applications, websites and more, in many cases preventing abilities and limiting focus on data integrations or sharing information across systems. It is important to note that these are not always IT-related. They can be facilities management systems, HVAC and more, further limiting internal integrations and security correlations.

It's long been established that RESTful APIs can easily provide processing and integration abilities to interact and share information across platforms. The priority and value of integration points available in products has drastically increased. Having vendor solutions without integration points is a problem experienced at all levels within government and, once solved, can provide proficiencies seen in other industries.

Another key factor making integrations required is the large push by governments to use cloud resources. Without APIs and services, integrations with other systems, including chatbots, become difficult, and in some cases technically impossible, without exceeding a project's budget and scope. Government agencies are already restricted by the availability and abilities of resources and continuous change of priorities. This makes integrations and simplifying application interfaces a requirement. These integration services should be requirements for products and cloud solutions moving forward.

These APIs provide not only more integration points, but also the ability of chatbot platforms — Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and others — to interface and provide more real-time information to citizens, constituents and employees at any time of the day or week. This is one area where data accessibility requirements begin to align between internal- and external-facing applications and systems. Life is becoming more dynamic and is beginning to require more access after regular office hours. Employees, staff members and citizens alike can leverage data information at all times and days of the week. Unifying and simplifying access to several solutions makes time to delivery of services shorter and increases customer and citizen satisfaction, reducing anxiety and stress.

Anxiety and stress have been proven to cause medical issues. Think of reducing these conditions from people's lives by providing a simple solution that can be deployed to billions of mobile devices and in homes, accessible 24/7/365, that can provide answers to a multitude of questions and detailed service information. The anxiety of waiting on hold or in lines is gone, as is the need to travel to government facilities, which isn't always convenient.
Though it sounds a bit like a utopia, it is attainable  and now, with technology becoming much more cost-effective, it saves money, reduces anxiety and stress, and makes everyone’s lives better and healthier. The return on investment will be greater than 100 percent!
Benjamin Palacio is a Senior IT Analyst on the ESSG-Enterprise Solutions Team in the Placer County Information Technology Department and is a CSAC-credentialed IT Executive. The views expressed here are his own. He may be reached at