Singapore partners Microsoft to explore "Conversations as a Platform"


13 July 2016

Singapore is partnering with Microsoft on its “Conversations as a Platform” to explore opportunities in co-creating next-generation digital government services for a Smart Nation.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-In-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative said, “I believe there are more intuitive ways for government services to be delivered to our citizens. Everybody expects responsive and personalised interactions in real time. The recent quantum improvement of natural language processing means that ‘conversations’ will be the new medium," he said at this year’s World Cities Summit “Innovative Solutions for a Smart City” conference track.

The Government, Dr Balakrishnan said, will explore the use of intelligent software programs known as chatbots for selected public services where appropriate. These chatbots will function as digital representatives, simulating human behaviour in order to make interactions simpler, more efficient, and more consistent.

"This joint research project with Microsoft to demonstrate the utility of conversational computing for public services will be all the more pertinent.”

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) will explore with Microsoft on a new computing proof-of-concept (POC) that builds conversational intelligence into public services to make them more anticipatory, accessible, engaging and inclusive for citizens and constituents.

According to IDA, essentially, computing systems, their apps and services, are infused with intelligence and context that shows up in the form of a bot to enable productive human to machine interaction within a single conversation, whether spoken or text, rather than needing individuals to navigate through a sea of icons to find and use multiple applications or look through pages and pages of websites to accomplish tasks.

The POC, which will be implemented in three phases, will involve intelligent chatbots, where users are able to converse with and call upon any applications within a single website to complete tasks, IDA said. It will also explore potential future scenarios, including services that cater to a multi-lingual and multi-generational population.

IDA said Phase One will see chatbots drawing from a vast database to answer simple factual questions from users of selected public services.

In Phase Two, chatbots will expand their capability to help users complete simple tasks and transactions within government websites. Following this, Phase Three will see chatbots responding to personalised queries from users, further enhancing user engagement by providing an interactive conversational experience, according to IDA.

“As everything around us becomes more digitised, Conversations as a Platform is a new shift that applies the understanding of human language to computers and computing, which can transform every industry,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft.