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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Name that Bot!

2020 - West Berkshire Chat Bot

Issued on: 18 June 2020

Since April, you may have noticed West Berkshire Council has had a 'newbie' working alongside their Customer Service team. 

An Advice Bot was put to work to help answer questions and signpost customers on our website to the latest information they need relating specifically to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and now, the council is looking to give it a name. 

The council worked with their partners, We Build Bots Ltd (WBB), to launch the Bot in response to the crisis. The longer term aim has been to develop a sophisticated machine learning Advice Bot to handle a number of the most popular council related requests, for example, on waste and highways queries. 

Joanne Stewart, West Berkshire's Executive Member for Internal Governance said:

"We are always looking to help our customers get the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

"The Advice Bot has been a planned project for some time; the importance and severity of the Covid-19 situation meant that we decided to bring forward the launch of the Advice Bot to help our customers get answers as quickly as possible during a challenging time. And so we developed a Covid-19 specific Advice Bot, our rationale being that although there are queries, often complex, that are best suited by talking to a human, for those simpler jobs let's use the Advice Bot." 

The Advice Bot has quickly become another way to get in touch with the council and has been contacted over 14,000 times in the first 69 days that it's been up and running generating over 61,000 button clicks! 

Behind the scenes, it has also been learning and developing so that it will be able to answer non Covid-19 related questions in the future. 

In view of the fact that the Advice Bot is now a permanent team member, the council are now looking to find a name for it. 

Joanne Stewart added:

"Our customers have been interacting well with the Bot and so we'd like its name to be chosen by them. We've come up with a shortlist but want local people to have the last word on their Bot's name." 

The shortlist is as follows:

  • Berkshire Bot
  • Berkley
  • Ask Gertrude - This suggestion is based on local aeronautical pioneer Gertrude Bacon who lived in Cold Ash, near Newbury in 1876. She accompanied her father on expeditions to film total solar eclipses in Lapland, India and North Carolina. Fascinated by Aeronautics, she was the first woman in England to make a proper balloon ascent in 1898. She was also the first passenger in a seaplane and accompanied pilot Herbert Stanley Adams in flights on Windermere in mid-1912. Adams had made the first successful complete flight from water and safely back again, in Britain, on 25 November 1911.

Vote for your favourite now!

To ask the Bot a Covid-19 related question, click on the icon on the bottom right hand corner on all pages across the West Berkshire Council website.