Dubai Introduces Fares Municipal Virtual Assistant for Voice and WhatsApp
The city of Dubai has debuted a virtual assistant to answer questions and fulfill requests for citizens using AI. The ‘Fares’ assistant operates as a voice assistant on the city’s hotline or as a chatbot through Dubai’s official WhatsApp number.
Fares is sometimes transliterated from the Arabic as فارس to ‘Faris’ or ‘Farsi,’ depending on the source. The word translates roughly to knight or horseman, possibly referring to its service as the cavalry for municipal issues. Those in Dubai can talk to Fares by calling the city hotline or setting up the WhatsApp number and asking a question. There’s also a default menu of common questions and services. Users can ask about the city and its services and check on the status of submitted requests for services provided by the city. There’s also the option to “Verify rumors related to Dubai Municipality,” as the AI phrases it, suggesting concern about what people are saying about the city. On a more interactive front, users can ask Fares to help determine what they owe in housing taxes, report any issues, or submit new requests to the government.
“Communication with #DubaiMunicipality is easier through ‘Fares’, the virtual assistant who answers your inquiries around the clock and helps you submit your services’ reports,” the city’s official Twitter feed explained. “‘Fares’ is available via WhatsApp, the website and the Municipality’s unified application. Visit our website and learn more about him.
Plenty of cities and state organizations have jumped into experimenting with voice assistants these days. Usually, they’re limited to informational services like the Alexa skill built by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, the California DMV chatbot, or the Iowan voice apps for both Alexa and Google Assistant. Dubai’s AI is more reminiscent of Mesa, Arizona’s Alexa skill, which can answer questions and arrange for utility bill payment.
The growing governmental interest in virtual assistants operates on a national level, too, whether built by public workers or in tandem with voice app developers like Voicify. Estonia is creating a voice assistant to provide public services in a network called #KrattAI, while India has chosen conversational AI startup Senseforth to build one for their government. The most recent notable entrant is Russia’s Sberbank and its Salute voice assistant. The banking giant is integrating Salute into the national government’s public services portal to provide marriage licenses, passport applications, and other government services.