Singapore Government has released a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that lets members of the public find contact details for any civil servant.

The bot takes the Civil Service Directory, which is already published online, and combines it with other data sources including government press releases and feedback mechanisms.

Users can then type in the name or job title of a civil servant and the bot will retrieve the most relevant finding, answering questions and guiding the user through the process.

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The bot also lets citizens report concerns like dirty streets, or political views on topics such as immigration.

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This system is part of a new experiment run by Singapore’s government called ‘Conversations as a Platform’. Agencies are building these systems, supported by the central GovTech Agency, to see whether citizens wish to interact with them rather than visit offices or use call centres.

This bot was built by KeyReply, a Singaporean startup, on behalf of the Ministry of Communications and Information, but other bots have been announced for the Municipal Services Office and the tourism agency.

Microsoft has partnered with Singapore Government on this initiative. Tony Newling, Senior Director of Public Sector Asia at Microsoft, told GovInsider that “Traditional digital services can seem off putting for some, while a chat bot allows people to interact online in a human manner. The tool also works particularly well for those with accessibility challenges, such as hearing and visually impaired people.”

Singapore is a challenging country for the trial, he noted, because it has four official languages – putting AI to the test and proving its potential for citizen engagement.