Responding to constituents’ questions regarding their health and safety is a top priority for government agencies around the world. Drawing upon a long-term partnership with the British Columbia Ministry of Health, CGI collaborated with five provincial government agencies to rapidly develop a chatbot in just 7 days. The result: A digital agent that helps answer constituents’ and health workers’ questions, while supporting hardworking government health helpline experts.

Providing an immediate response

British Columbia health and government executives quickly mobilized to discuss and implement solutions to help the province best respond to the pandemic. As part of these discussions, leaders brought in CGI experts who are seasoned in such areas as data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and epidemiology.

While discussing strategies to create various data dashboards to track and predict the spread of the virus, the conversation turned to ideas for how to manage the volume of calls and long wait times for the province’s 8-1-1 health helpline. Quickly, a solution was born: Develop a chatbot that helps triage questions, directing constituents to the right services and answering pressing questions in a matter of seconds.

The team of government and CGI experts quickly got to work, bringing together their technology and clinical data expertise. Within 7 days, they launched the chatbot to a patient advocacy group that helped train the AI by asking a wide variety of questions. Through this training, the development team used natural language processing to help refine the digital agent’s ability to understand questions and respond appropriately.

A week later, the COVID Digital Assistant - available at - was live to the public. After the first week, the bot had fielded thousands of data requests, providing immediate responses to concerned constituents’ inquires. It also helps answer healthcare workers’ critical questions, such as how to best put on and take off personal protective equipment.

With the success of the webpage chatbot, British Columbia’s leaders are looking into future solutions, such as investigating the virtual assistant’s use on the 8-1-1 helpline.

Looking ahead to rebound and reinvent with new services

Advances in technology are helping British Columbia and other governments quickly respond to the crisis, and CGI’s experts are building solutions to help clients as they move through the phases of the pandemic crisis. For example, one solution is the development of pandemic modelling to support rapid and secure data sharing between organizations, linking genomics, disease and COVID-19 datasets to develop models that support the analysis of epidemic containment, intervention and treatment protocols.

By leveraging proven techniques and technologies that manage data as an asset, governments can continue to find innovative solutions that reinvent the ways they execute their missions.