SAATHI aimed at actionable proactive engagement with citizens: DC Wokha

The public awareness photo shared by the Deputy Commissioner, Wokha regarding ‘SAATHI’ WhatsApp chabot on Twitter. (Image Courtesy: @DC_Wokha/Twitter)

The public awareness photo shared by the Deputy Commissioner, Wokha regarding ‘SAATHI’ WhatsApp chabot on Twitter. (Image Courtesy: @DC_Wokha/Twitter)

Morung Express News
Dimapur | May 21

The Wokha District Administration launched a transformative approach called "SAATHI" (Smart AI-based Assistant for Timely Help & Interface) chatbot on May 19.

Among others, it is aimed at improving citizen-government interaction and establishing ‘seamless connection’ between the district's residents and the various services provided by the administration and government departments.

The Artificial Intelligence-powered conversational chatbot (software that simulates human-like conversations) operates using WhatsApp (7005577231), by leveraging the popularity of the social media platform.

SAATHI was officially launched by the Union Minister of State for Social Justice & Empowerment A Narayanaswamy during his visit to the district on May 19.

In response to inquiries from The Morung Express, Wokha Deputy Commissioner Ajit Kumar Ranjan provides further details about the SAATHI chatbot.

The Morung Express (MEx): Who envisaged the chatbot and how was it conceptualised? 
Deputy Commissioner Wokha Ajit Kumar Ranjan (DC Wokha):
The chatbot has been devised by the Wokha district administration in order to overcome the various challenges being faced by people and government departments in delivery of services and to achieve saturation level in several schemes like vaccination, Ayushman card etc.

The conceptualisation was done by me. I have worked with Rohit Singh ADC Bhandari to develop this system. 

MEx: In what way it enhances citizen-government interactions? 
DC Wokha:
It has been seen often that people especially from rural areas keep coming to DC office or other government offices to avail various service. 

However, often they to go back without getting the service due to lack of sufficient documents orworkforce paucity at last mile office. The transportation cost in the hilly parts is very high and this deters people from getting services. The same problem is for the departments.

Further there are several helplines in the district and in the state but most are not efficient as they need to be properly manned. In addition, information of various helplines are not available so easily.

The chatbot will address those gaps. The basic features of the SAATHI interface with citizens are:

•    Conversational AI and WhatsApp Channel: The chatbot will utilise advanced AI techniques to engage in natural language conversations with citizens, understanding their queries and providing appropriate responses. As it is used on most commonly usedWhatsApp messaging, no separate app needs to be downloaded.
•    Information and Service Delivery Centre: Citizens will be able to access a wealth of information related to government services, schemes, policies, contact details, and frequently asked questions. In addition, it would enable citizens to request and avail various services offered by government departments, such as updating of Adhaar, registration in Chief Minister Health Insurance Schemes (CMHIS) and applying for government schemes, and more.
•    Grievance Redressal: Citizens can raise grievances, report issues, and track the progress of their complaints. The chatbot will ensure prompt routing and resolution of grievances through automated workflows.
•    Awareness and Engagement: The district administration will leverage the platform to disseminate information, raise awareness about government programs, and engage with citizens through proactive messaging and reminders.
•    Insights and monitoring: With the data obtained through the chatbot regarding citizen engagement and response of government agencies in providing services, the administration will be able to better monitor the services and address the service delivery gaps promptly.
•    24x7 operational: Being a virtual assistant, it can be at disposal of people at their convenience

MEx: What are the advantages of chatbot over other interactions, say over human?

The bot will provide authentic information and bring all relevant information to a single point hub. 

For example, as of now if one wants to avail of ambulance service, one has to personally contact someone higher up in the health department or administration as the information of ambulance manager is not easily available and helplines are not been effectively manned. Now citizens will have direct connection to the ambulance manager in every hospital of the district or any other agencies possessing an ambulance through the chatbot to avail the service.

Further for any government campaigns and IEC, the platform would provide facilities to the department to send bulk messages. These messages, unlike the normal text messages etc, would be actionable. For instance, on the day of launch, we have sent messages to over 2000 government pensioners who have been approved for CMHIS but not done eKYC for cards. 

The actionable proactive engagement with people is a very distinctive feature of this system. We intend to use it for priority services like immunisation, schemes etc and its scope will expand as more services gets included.

MEx: How can it be assured that the queries or services requested would be registered and followed up? 

DC Wokha: Queries will be answered automatically as AI-powered chatbot has natural language processing ability to understand the query and answer them.

For the various other services, the notifications to service provider would be sent, who then, would follow up on the request.

The platform provides to the administration a 360-degree view of user’s requests and services which will reviewed with departments regularly and provide the administration with the ability to monitor the last mile delivery of services. 

MEx: Any future plan to make it available in local language?  

DC Wokha: Local language as of now is not supported. But it something that should be and can be done at later stage as it will require some more technical work. But we will explore this as we go ahead.

MEx: Any other projects in the pipeline?

DC Wokha: The Wokha district administration has been working on skill development and entrepreneurship as there is very good potential here. We set up an Entrepreneurship Task Force (ETF) in August 2022 to break the silos of departments and to bring in one-stop centre, entrepreneur-centred paradigm.

The issue with skill and entrepreneurship has been that there are several agencies from state government as well as central government side and also NGOs. However, most of them work only on their schemes and often fail to provide holistic end-to-end support that is customised to the entrepreneur.

With the ETF, we have been able to work with over a thousand entrepreneurs and also with several FPOs (Farmer Producer Organisation)/Association and bring together all agencies (departments, central agencies like tea board, banks, KVK etc) to give entrepreneur-centred solutions ranging from skill development, market development, credit etc.

Being the focus agenda, ETF is also included in the SAATHI platform, where people can simply apply with their plans and needs. 

The Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.