My personal research of council websites and content management systems that they use has been extended to include the use of webchat and chatbots.
I reviewed every council website individually as I couldn’t find any tools or websites to help to detect webchat or chatbots. I checked the homepage, contact us, council tax and waste and recycling pages of each council as these seemed to be the most likely places to find webchat and chatbot services. It is possible that I have missed some, so if you spot any gaps please let me know.
In most cases councils either choose to use webchat or a chatbot – or they choose not to use either. Some councils, however, choose to use chatbots which pass off to a human being, usually to a customer services advisor, via webchat. This is perhaps the best of both worlds as bots can’t always provide a full response.
I have added details of councils using webchat and chatbots to an updated version of Airtable.
Below are details of the number of councils using webchat or chatbots by country. The use of these services is currently relatively low across UK and Ireland. I would expect, however, that the use of chatbots will increase over time, replacing the use of webchat.
|Country||Councils using Webchat||Councils using Chatbots|
|United Kingdom and Ireland||44||49|
The name given to a chatbot varies from council to council. Some call them chatbots while others refer to them as digital, smart or virtual assistants, or even as an artificial intelligence service. Some consistency on the naming of the service across councils might be useful. In one council it was introduced as a smart assistant and then as a chatbot. In another council it was referred to as both a smart assistant and as a virtual assistant.
Some councils have decided to give their chatbot a name, perhaps in an attempt to give it a personality or make it feel less robotic. My favourite names are Oggie at Bridgend County Borough Council and Mona, a bilingual chatbot (Welsh/English) from the Isle of Anglesey.
|AB-1||Aberdeen City Council|
|Abbot||Argyle and Bute Council|
|AiDA||Cheshire West and Chester Council|
|Aimee||Rother District Council|
|Alfie||Oadby & Wigston Borough Council|
|Ami||Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council|
|Basil||Coventry City Council|
|Berkley||West Berkshire Council|
|Beth||Torfaen County Borough Council|
|Cecilia||Cheshire East Council|
|ELLIS||Lewes and Eastbourne Councils|
|Mona||Isle of Anglesey|
|Monty||Monmouthshire County Council|
|Oggie||Bridgend County Borough Council|
|Owlbot||Leeds City Council|
|Penfro||Pembrokeshire County Council|
|Ria||Derry City and Strabane District Council|
|Sam||Lichfield District Council|
|SOBOT||Southampton City Council|
|Sur-i||Surrey County Council|
|Tom||Telford & Wrekin Council|