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Indian Government Seeks to Build Conversational AI to Deliver Services

The government of India wants to build a voice assistant and chatbot that can digitally deliver government services. The National E-Governance Division of  India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT is inviting companies to submit proposals for the conversational artificial intelligence platform, augmenting India’s central UMANG portal for government information services.

Indian Voice Assistant

The AI envisioned by the Indian government would be comparable to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant in its functionality. The proposed AIs have to speak multiple languages, handle text-to-voice and back, grasp intent and emotional context, and collect and analyze data about interactions that can be used to personalize future experiences. The UMANG platform’s functions are the minimum that the virtual assistant would need to accommodate, but it could have additional capabilities. The platform also needs deep learning functions so that it can personalize recommendations and ideas to users. The government is accepting bids until Jan. 25 and will reveal which firm is chosen for the four-year contract in mid-February.

“The platform should be able to provide assistance with general tasks, including but not limited to availing services of government and available on the UMANG platform such as registration, login, reset password, department service relation information, event, (and) new launch…etc.,” the proposal document states. “Platforms should also have other deep learning capabilities, which can be used by platforms for discovery and recommendation of eligible schemes and services to the users of bots/applications. “Users should be recommended best-fit schemes and services available in government domain based on his/her profile.”

Governmental AI

The plan to build a conversational AI is the latest of the Indian government’s efforts to boost the tech it offers citizens. In March, India launched a chatbot on WhatsApp to answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and fight misinformation. The chatbot relied on the Indian Ministry of Health database to respond to queries about the coronavirus and the country’s current situation in terms of infection rates and lockdown status. India is also not the only country exploring coming up with a national voice assistant and chatbot. Estonia, well known for its embrace of digital technology, has created a strategy for building out a network of artificial intelligence applications, including a nationwide public service voice assistant in a network called #KrattAI. The idea is to apply AI to accomplish the kind of tasks that usually require a phone call or an in-person visit to a government agency. That matches up with India’s plan. The rapidly growing popularity of voice assistants in India, as seen in the vying for market share between Amazon and Google, could encourage the rapid adoption of a national AI, depending on how it develops.


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