What to know about Baton Rouge’s new AI chatbot

At its meeting Wednesday, the Metro Council approved the development of a city-parish AI chatbot that will allow residents and visitors to ask questions, find resources and report issues.

According to Eric Romero, director of information services for the city-parish, the virtual assistant will be rolled out in two phases.

In phase one, the chatbot will be able to assist users with general questions related to city-parish services like animal control or trash collection. Romero says this initial phase will likely roll out sometime this summer.

In phase two, the chatbot will be integrated with the city-parish’s 311 system to assist users with reporting service requests related to drainage, missed trash collection, road maintenance and more. This phase may roll out by the end of the summer, though Romero stresses that nothing is set in stone.

To provide a blueprint for the development of the chatbot, the city-parish looked to other cities that have already implemented similar technology—Denver and New Orleans, specifically.

“We always look to our peer cities for best practices, and not just cities of our size,” Romero says. “We look at the big boys, too.”

The chatbot will be developed by Citibot, a South Carolina-based provider of AI chatbot solutions. The city-parish has entered into a four-year contract with Citibot, though early termination clauses are in place if issues should arise.

Some $93,000 in city-parish programming application fees have been appropriated for the subscription to Citibot’s software. Programming application fees are surcharges levied by cable, internet and phone providers that come back to the city-parish for use in “governmental education.”

This story originally appeared in an April 18 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.