Estonia launches Bürokratt, the Siri of digital public services

For Estonians, renewing a passport, and access to a host of other public services, will soon be as easy as asking Siri to play your favourite songs.

Another day, another public sector digital innovation from Estonia.

The country’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications announced on December 7 that Bürokratt, which Estonia is calling the world’s first public service AI-based virtual assistant, will officially go live in 2022 following successful beta testing in 2021.

Bürokratt, which brings together an interoperable network of AI applications, will enable citizens to use public services with virtual assistants through voice-based interaction.

Estonians will be able to access all public services with Bürokratt, allowing them to apply for family benefits, file taxes, renew a passport and in the future even apply for a bank loan. Bürokratt will remind citizens ahead of time when upcoming actions are required, and will be personalised based on a user’s data, not simply a repetition of public information based on user questions, as most virtual assistants currently operate.

“With Bürokratt, citizens won’t have to know or spend time searching for information on separate government websites to find a particular service. Rather, people will have services offered to them and delivered in an integrated manner, around their needs,” says Ott Velsberg, Estonia’s chief data officer.

Velsberg says that Bürokratt has been designed to eradicate bureaucratic processes and make public services radically easier to use as well as more convenient and accessible. Citizens can authorise and consent to certain deeds and actions, such as the submission of applications, making of payments or contracts or change of data in registries through voice-based interaction with an AI-based virtual assistant on any common device, such as a mobile phone.

The future for governments around the world’

“In the same way Alexa plays you a song and Siri assists you with your phone calls, Bürokratt will enable citizens to access their own personal data and get support with government services. Both the launch and implementation of Bürokratt will be a testament to Estonian technology and will certainly inspire more governments to transform the citizen user experience.

“AI-based voice-interactive virtual assistants will be the future for other governments around the world, but now they’re a reality for the Estonian people.”

In the near future the service will also offer citizens the opportunity to share data on the basis of consent for the development and provision of services in the private sector.

By giving this consent, data can be shared more easily, enabling companies to implement new services as well as improve existing ones. For example, applying for a bank loan will no longer require people to enter data into a form, as all relevant information will be gathered automatically from the state’s databases.

Siim Sikkut, the CIO of the Estonian government, says that Bürokratt is further evidence that Estonia recognises the power and need for digitalisation, particularly with respect to how public services operate from the user perspective.

“AI-based tools like Bürokratt provide citizens with seamless and integrated services that are rightfully tailored to the individual and their life events. The user experience will not rely on citizens having the appropriate digital skills to be able to operate interfaces such as apps or websites, but will operate through the most intuitive form of communication – the voice.”

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