Council exploring use of robotic automation and artificial intelligence

Chichester's County Hall SUS-160818-125926001
Chichester's County Hall SUS-160818-125926001

Robotic automation and artificial intelligence sound like subjects for one of the more complicated episodes of Doctor Who – not a county council.

But West Sussex is looking into how to use the futuristic-sounding technology to improve the way its services are delivered to customers, and even predict what those customers want.

Set aside any excited thoughts of C3PO helping with queries about recycling or Optimus Prime taking details about potholes, though.

Officers are at the very early stage of working out what is and isn’t possible.

At a meeting of the performance and finance committee, members were told that the council and business technology experts Capita were ‘investigating the use of new technology solutions such as robotic automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to make service delivery more effective and efficient’.

To chuckles from other members, Bob Lanzer, cabinet member for corporate relations, said: “It’s not just what you might envisage – say exoskeletons, if you see what I mean.

“It’s also software robots perhaps using artificial intelligence at the front end of an enquiry, for example.”

A council spokesman said: “We are in the early stages of investigating what is possible and what other organisations are doing in an increasingly digital world.

“Our emerging IT strategy was used as source to identify some of these technologies and to highlight those that might be of greatest benefit in the future.

“Consequently, the council is keeping track of a wide range of innovative technology that can be used to simplify and speed up customer transactions.

“Other organisations have used software robots to perform high volume, time consuming, manual data entry work or used artificial intelligence to predict what customers want to apply for or to tell them how to get to the right service or right place for assistance quicker.

“This will help us improve efficiency and make sure we target our resources more effectively.”