New Kelowna Citybot can answer COVID-19 questions

December 15, 2020

The City of Kelowna recently added a new member to its chatbot family. Launched on Dec. 7, the Kelowna Citybot can answer some common questions about the City’s response to COVID-19 and services during the pandemic. The Citybot joins Link, Kelowna International Airport’s web chatbot, as a new way to access information and services online. 

Chatbots are computer programs designed to simulate a human-like conversation with users. They can be programmed to provide answers to frequently asked questions, search web content for answers that they don’t know and integrate with other services. 

In its first week, the Citybot responded to more than 200 messages from people looking for answers to COVID-19 questions and some inquiries that it couldn’t answer because it hasn’t yet been built to handle non-pandemic topics. 

“Right now, the Kelowna Citybot is programmed to answer questions about COVID-19 and is being monitored and trained by staff to become better over time,” said Andreas Boehm, Intelligent Cities Manager at the City of Kelowna. “We wanted to start small because we are still learning, as is the chatbot. Citybot doesn’t know it all, but it will do its best to provide good customer service anytime, day or night.”  

As part of the Intelligent City Strategy, City staff are exploring solutions that will help users connect with important information and services more quickly, easily and conveniently, while supporting staff so that they have more time to work on complex cases or other priorities.    

Future plans for Citybot include expanding its conversation abilities to include more of the City’s business and potential integration with online City services, so that residents can find and do more through the chatbot.  

“Eventually, we’d love to see the Citybot not only provide accurate answers to user’s questions, but also be able to do things on their behalf, like report an issue or register for a recreation program,” said Boehm. “But, if we are dreaming big, we’d love to see Citybot become a voice activated option with enhanced accessibility for tapping into City information and services.” 

To give the COVID-19 question-ready chatbot a try, visit kelowna.ca, click on the chat icon in the lower right corner and choose one of the featured questions or begin typing.