Arman Eshraghi, CEO and Founder of Qrvey, hosts a podcast, “SaaS Scaled.” Our latest episode featured Ben Sebree, Senior Vice President of R&D, CivicPlus, a technology company committed to empowering governments to efficiently operate, serve, and govern through the use of innovative and integrated technology solutions. You can watch or listen to the podcast here and we’ve covered some highlights of their discussion below.

How Do You Measure the Potential Impact & User Adoption of New Tech Offerings?

“Our product strategy organization goes through pragmatic processes to really understand the voice of the market before we start any work within our engineering teams. So, we work very closely with clients, our customers, and opportunities that we have in the pipeline to truly understand what the pain points are that people are coming to us looking to have solved “And then we look at it from a standpoint of, there’s a lot of different ways that we can solve this problem. So, it’s really focus and fall in love with the problem that we’re trying to solve. And then we’ll build something around it instead of coming with the solution for a problem that doesn’t necessarily exist. “Then on the back end of all of that, once we’ve launched something into market, we leverage various different analytics tools, such as Google Analytics or Pendo, in order to see the user adoption, both from a municipal staff standpoint of the employees that are actually into the software, interacting with residents or doing their day jobs, as well as other front-end type analytics to track resident interactions and visits to our products as well.”

How Can Local Governments Use Technologies to Be More Efficient? 

First, Ben mentioned the benefits of leveraging public cloud, including accessibility to information, scalability, and security. “It’s an incredibly exciting time out there right now when it comes to generative AI, because we’re just seeing the technology change leaps and bounds in a matter of weeks, not even months or years. We could probably count the days between some next big innovation coming out at the moment. So, I think where that really creates a lot of benefit for our clients, our customers, and just the industry in general even outside of technology is it’s really changing us from creators where we have to create 100% of the content ourselves to curators. We’re able to get a huge efficiency boost by saying, ‘Hey, I want to draft a memo for X, Y, and Z.’ It can create a first draft of that memo and then you become a curator of the content, you proofread it, make sure it’s accurate, change it into your own voice, and then you’re able to create a lot of really nice efficiencies for your day-to-day work leveraging technologies like a generative AI.”

What are the Challenges of Using AI Responsibly & Ensuring It’s Helpful?

“Especially working in government, you want to do everything you can to build trust with residents. So having good ethical practices and policies in place for how you leverage AI within local government or how your vendors are leveraging AI is incredibly important. So, data privacy and security risks are huge ones. So encrypting data at rest, that is sensitive information, maybe even using synthetic data or anonymizing some of the sensitive information that you have before it goes into those models would really help. “And then there’s bias and discrimination risks that come with training data as well, where you want to ensure that you understand all of the data that you have. Does it reflect your morals and ethics? And if it doesn’t, that means you might need to take a look at the data, figure out where there might be bias in it from anything historical that may have happened. And over/ under sampling data specifically to counteract that potential bias that could be in the training data, or have an algorithm that can search and potentially flag things that might be bias or potential ethical issues within the data itself. “And then really being able to transparently explain how the AI model is being leveraged and what is happening behind the scenes with that model.”

What Digital Infrastructure Improvements Have You Seen Cities Making?

“We’ve seen cities that do some really cool integrations of our products around different smart city initiatives that they have. A great example is using flood sensors to integrate directly with our 311 application, SeeClickFix, and it will automatically create a work ticket if a flood sensor gets tripped for somebody to proactively go out. “Some municipalities are achieving really nice efficiencies leveraging AI chatbots. We’ve seen municipalities be able to cut operational costs by about 30% by leveraging a chatbot. And the chatbot can answer about 80% of the routine questions that are coming in, such as, ‘I just moved here, what all do I need to do within 30, 60, 90 days of moving?’ Whether it’s registering a car, updating your license, if it’s a new state, etc. And it can give you the information you need to self-serve as quickly as possible. You don’t have to get in your car and drive anywhere to ask somebody in person, and you can interact with government in your own way by doing that.”

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