ePortugal’s Virtual Citizen Assistant launched today

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The Government and the Agency for Administrative Modernization (AMA) launch today the Virtual Assistant, an artificial intelligence (AI) solution that recognizes and reproduces text and voice, to answer citizens’ questions about the Mobile Digital Key (CMD).

This solution aims to “support citizens in their digital interaction with public services, taking advantage of voice and natural language processing,” according to the office of the Secretary of State for Digitization and Administrative Modernization.

The Virtual Assistant is the result of a “joint work between AMA and several private entities, including Microsoft, as a supplier of cloud technology for the solution, through Azure OpenAI Service and support for the development of the pilot,” says Mário Campolargo’s office.

It was joined by Defined.ai, “which developed the voice model optimized for Portuguese and articulated the development of the avatar with a startup specialized in artificial intelligence, DareData, the partner responsible for the integration and implementation of the pilot.

In another statement, from AMA and the project partners, it is stated that this solution will allow citizens, through the ‘homepage’ of the ePortugal portal, a permanent service, connecting them to the CMD through mobile and desktop devices.

“This launch represents a significant milestone in the digital transformation of public services in Portugal and one of the elements of the new strategy of the service of the future that AMA is developing,” says the secretary of state, quoted in a statement.

“Besides promoting closer ties between the State and the citizens, this is an innovative solution that adds an avatar with a voice in Portuguese to the communication channels with the public sector,” concluded Mário Campolargo.

As of today, “this solution is available on the Digital Mobile Key service page, and although it is still in beta, this new virtual assistant will have its pilot service on this platform, being transversal to all public services in the future. The solution was developed with funding from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR),” says a joint statement from AMA and the partners.

In other words, the Virtual Assistant will have the Mobile Digital Key as a pilot service for the use of this technology, which, “in the near future,” will be transversal to other public services available on the ePortugal portal, summarizes the Government.

AMA’s president, João Dias, considers, quoted in a press release, that the “project aims to significantly mark a turning point in the digital transformation of public services in Portugal, and is one of the elements of the new strategy to serve the future that AMA is developing.

“The goal is to promote closer ties between the state and citizens through the most transformative technology of our time, generative artificial intelligence,” according to the agency head.

In an interview earlier this month with Lusa, the AMA president had advanced that there would be “news” on the use of AI to improve public attendance.

“AI solutions like ChatGPT open up a world of opportunities that, if used well, can have the potential to revolutionize the public sector,” the manager said at the time, when questioned by Lusa on the subject.

In turn, the general director of Microsoft Portugal, Andrés Ortolá, points out that “Portugal has been at the forefront of developing solutions and use cases based on large language models,” also cited in a statement.

“It’s amazing to see the dynamism of our ecosystem. Microsoft’s goal is to democratize advances in AI through our cloud to help people and organizations be more productive and solve society’s most pressing problems,” he says.

For the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Daredata Engineering, Nuno Brás, “scientific advances in the area of artificial intelligence will bring a new paradigm to all organizations, private and public”, where “besides an enormous productivity gain, new technologies based on generative artificial intelligence (of which big language models are a part) can catapult the capacity and quality of serving customers and, in the case of the public sector, citizens”.

Therefore, “we are committed to bringing these technologies to organizations in a responsible and transparent way, being sure that all the benefits of any implementation far outweigh any risks brought by AI,” he concludes.

“Today, we celebrate the launch of another milestone in AI technology, a language model with the potential to redefine the relationship between citizens and public services, as well as to position Portugal in the sphere of ‘speech technology’, taking the first steps towards our Conversational.ai model under development with PRR funds granted by the Portuguese government,” adds Defined.ai CEO and founder Daniela Braga.

“It’s exciting to be part of this paradigm shift,” he says.

It should be noted that the solution, hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud, is based on the GPT 3.5 turbo model – the same that serves as the basis for OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

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