Service deliveryDigital Customer ServiceMighty Monty chatbot goes live

Mighty Monty chatbot goes live

Monmouthshire County Council continues its digital drive by becoming the first local authority in Wales to launch a chatbot.

Monmouthshire County Council is continuing its innovative use of digital tools by becoming the first local authority in Wales to launch a chatbot.

Working with Cardiff-based start-up We Build Bots, the chatbot will answer queries 24/7, reducing demand on the council’s call centre and increasing its responsiveness to local people.

The bot, named Monty by local people – who thankfully avoided the now ubiquitous moniker Botty McBotface – uses artificial intelligence and learns about the questions people ask most often to develop quicker and better responses, releasing council staff to support vulnerable people and those with more complex queries.Mighty Monty chatbot goes live

The council launched Monty by welcoming residents to ‘Love Digital’ on St Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day, where it highlighted how the service is available 24/7 on its website – monmouthshire.gov.uk – and via its Facebook messenger service @MonmouthshireCC. The council’s community hubs also welcomed residents to pop in and enjoy a St Dwynwen’s Day tea and technology chat.

Sessions took place in Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth with support provided for people looking to get online for the first time and learn more about digital technology. There was also an opportunity to understand the range of different ways people can contact the council including Monty, the My Monmouthshire app, the Monmouthshire website and also how to access online library resources.

First foray

We Build Bots had already built chatbots for organisations like the Automobile Association and Amnesty International, but Monmouthshire was its first foray into the world of public service.

Paul Shepherd, CEO of We Build Bots, said: “It has been great working with Monmouthshire County Council on Monty. Monmouthshire is our flagship council and our collaborative approach to building the chatbot has not only made Monty a brilliant asset, who only continues to get cleverer but also has formed the foundations of several councils who have subsequently signed up with We Build Bots.”

The sentiment was echoed by council leader Peter Fox OBE who also holds the Digital and Innovation portfolio for the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal. “Monmouthshire, like many local authorities, is facing huge challenges meeting the needs of communities with limited resources and rising expectations,” he said. “The pace of change and the opportunities afforded by digital are massive and we don’t want public services to be left behind.

“Our staff are working with some forward-thinking companies and are keen to act as a test-bed to apply technology to help address the things that matter most to our residents while creating opportunities for the region’s young people in the industries of the future.”

Capitalising on digital

The county of Monmouthshire may not necessarily be synonymous with cutting-edge technology but this corner of south east Wales, occupying an enviable location between Cardiff, Bristol and the Brecon Beacons National Park, is busy capitalising on the potential of digital solutions to address some of the biggest challenges faced by communities.

The council’s goal is to improve wellbeing and prosperity, but its actions also clearly signal that Monmouthshire is a forward-looking and thriving location with a technology offer to match and mark it as a destination of choice for tech businesses.

In May 2018 Monmouthshire County Council secured up to £1.25m of Cabinet Office funding to launch a challenge; working with innovative technology firms to develop digital solutions to the challenges of isolation and limited rural transport. The county has already been confirmed as the location where the next generation of eco-motoring will be tested with hydrogen-powered vehicles taking to the streets of Abergavenny as part of an agreement with UK-based car manufacturer RiverSimple.

Less than 12 months ago the county was confirmed as one of three locations to benefit from £2m funding to trial the use of 5G technology in rural areas. The bid from Quickline Communications will focus on smart agriculture, tourism and connecting poorly-served rural communities. The local authority was also a key player in the establishment of a major facility for high-end production of compound semiconductors in neighbouring Newport, leveraging tens of millions of pounds of investment.

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