Estonia’s Bürokratt, a concept of how state could operate in the age of artificial intelligence, again in UNESCO’s global list of top AI projects

Work in Estonia
Author Work in Estonia

Bürokratt is not just an IT project but a concept of how digital services and the state could operate in the age of artificial intelligence,” says Ott Velsberg, Chief Data Officer of Estonia’s Digital Government.

“With Bürokratt, the goal has been to offer the best possible digital state experience in order to make communication with the state radically easier for both entrepreneurs and citizens,” confirms Velsberg. These goals have been recognised all over the world as the International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI), operating under UNESCO, has selected this Estonian-made AI as one of the top 100 in the world.

According to Velsberg, Bürokratt is an example of a sustainable artificial intelligence solution that is scalable and ensures privacy when processing human data. “The plan is to make the country more efficient, more customer-friendly and more people-oriented and to take customer service to a new level; we have a very clear vision for all of this, maybe that is the reason for such international attention,” Velsberg comments.

Making communication with the state easy

The next step towards implementing this vision is already underway. “We are currently testing Bürokratt’s chat solution in the Consumer Protection and Technical Surveillance Authority’s service environment (TTJA), which lets us communicate with the advisers of the office,” Velsberg says. “The chat is a necessary step for gathering data and training the AI.”

According to Velsberg, the final product will greatly simplify communication between people and the state. “It will allow access to all kinds of public services, let us inform citizens about the opportunities and benefits offered by the state and answer questions and concerns around the clock,” Velsberg notes.

In the coming months, it is planned to implement the complete version consisting of a chat function and a robot for the Police and Border Guard Board and the National Library. “We will continue adding these institutions to Bürokratt’s network,” Velsberg confirms, pointing to the AI project being even more ambitious. “This way, we can answer all customers’ questions without diversions and delays; by the end of the first quarter, we will connect Bürokratt with its first public services so that citizens can have the opportunity to use it in a way that is convenient for them.”

According to Velsberg, the aim is to train Bürokratt and develop its basic functionality to the point that most public services and voice-based communication are available through it. It is also planned to use other channels, such as Facebook Messenger, with Bürokratt for communication between the state and the consumer. “We want to provide a full package for citizens. Take a car accident, for example, where it is often necessary to inform the insurance company and, in the worst case, contact the emergency centre,” Velsberg adds, thinking of additional applications for Bürokratt.

In addition, Bürokratt aims to provide cross-border services. “We hope to find good partners in the European Union, where we can implement the full, free Bürokratt software,” Velsberg says.

According to Velsberg, we can be proud both in terms of IRCAI’s recognition and the current skills of the AI. “It must be acknowledged that Bürokratt is already quite capable,” he rejoices.

Velsberg has led the implementation of AI in the public sector since 2018 and has made it his goal to automate simpler activities to enable people to engage in other activities. “For example, AI are now being used to translate, transcribe or put speech into written text as well as to automate customer services,” he describes the things accomplished over the years. “Data-based decisions cannot be left out either, as AI is being used to give better recommendations for jobseekers and to detect tax fraud.”

Close cooperation with the private sector

In order to achieve the best results, the state involves the private sector in AI development. “We are development partners, developing the software solutions necessary in cooperation with Texta OÜ,” confirms Rain Rang, Member of the Board and Field Manager of software development company NetGroup. “Among other things, we are helping the country by teaching algorithms various contexts,” he adds.

According to Rang, Bürokratt is a unique, free of charge national speech robot. “It allows for communication with the state around the clock, getting answers to all questions from one place – and in Estonian,” he describes Bürokratt’s capabilities. “We are able to put the most modern AI solutions to work for Estonia and in Estonian,” says Rang.

“In conclusion, we want to use AI to make the country more efficient and offer citizens the best experience of living in a digital state,” concludes Velsberg.

In total, three Estonian projects can be found in UNESCO’s latest list of the top 100 best artificial intelligence projects, which means that Estonia has the most AI projects in the world per capita.  In addition to Bürokratt, two other Estonian artificial intelligence projects were seen among the world’s top 100: automation of investment promotion at Invest Estonia, and software platform Bitskout (read more here).

Considering Estonia’s current success in creating remarkable AI solutions and the fact that there are 300+ AI startups in Estonia, be ready to hear about AI Estonia or “EstonAI” again soon.

Author: Indrek Mäe
Photo: bürokratt