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Finding new ways to use bot technology in the public service

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: DVLA Digital Services

Following our successful ’Hack to the future’ event we held a botathon over 2 days recently in Swansea.

Working together with public and private sector organisations we wanted to find new and engaging ways to use bot technology within a public service. A bot is an automated application used to perform simple and repetitive tasks.

Our aim was to improve public facing digital services and inspire people in those organisations to provide a better service for customers.

What bots do

Most of us by now will be familiar with digital bots, perhaps without even realising it. You may talk to Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant and ask for your favourite song to be played. Or you might find yourself chatting to chatbots.

Hacking away

After introductions from our Chief Executive Julie Lennard and Chief Architect Matt Lewis, the teams got down to the business of hacking.

2 girls sitting at a desk looking at a laptop

Attendees split into 12 teams and were busy coming up with concepts and building until late in the evening. After 2 days each team got to pitch their ideas and demonstrate their prototype to a panel of judges. They were Sally Meecham, Digital Transformation Director at Welsh Government, Sam Machin, Senior Product Manager at Vonage and our very own John Hewson, DVLA Service Manager.

People sitting at tables in a digital theatre with a large screen showing Botathon

And the winners are

The overall winning team was Team Cy (DVLA) who came up with a way to identify parking spaces through live CCTV video streams. They used real time data to identify a space and historic data to predict future availability making it easier for drivers to park.

2 men standing at a podium on a stage with a girl standing to the left

Best pitch went to Team Chonk (DVLA) who developed a voice assistant to allow physically impaired users to use a lift sharing service.

Best idea came from Team Meic (DVLA and University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Masters Students) for creating a system to allow you to find people with skills and interests within DVLA (or wider) when you need support or advice. I’m pleased they won this award as competition was fierce. James Harrison Morgan, one of the students, tells you more about their bot below.

Our bot called Meic was built to help someone, especially if new to an organisation, ask for help when faced with a problem they could not solve. Meic is a chatbot, accessed through Slack, SMS, and WhatsApp, that asks what skill or field of expertise you need (for example, JavaScript) before asking for your location.

The bot will list people with the skills you need to ask for help. Skills are filtered and the bot sends back the top 3 for you to select a specialist person to contact them for help, using Meic to send an email. Data is collated to show how many specialists have been selected to allow an organisation to spot trends and knowledge gaps to improve plans for training.

For best use of technology Team Keneth (Not Binary Ltd) came up with a solution for car buyers to photograph a car, including the registration number, using a voice assistant. This linked to multiple sources to give the history of the vehicle, including DVLA’s vehicle enquiry service data.

The surprise us category was won by Team Sparks (Welsh public sector) who were local authority and Welsh government colleagues. Only meeting on the morning of the botathon the judges were really impressed when they hit the ground running and managed to develop a chatbot linking up local and central government services.

Congratulations to the winning team and to everyone else who picked up prizes.

Taking our ideas forward

Teams were free to take their ideas and prototypes away with them and use however they wish. The ultimate success would be for these to develop into new digital services - you never know!

I’m pleased to say it was another exciting and engaging event, which provided an excellent platform to share learning across the public and private sector.

We’ll be looking at the best ideas and how technology is being used in innovative ways, with an aim to use this learning to improve our own services.

Come and join us

Apply for a job in our digital and technology teams:

We’re always looking for people to join our digital and technology teams, so keep an eye on our DVLA Careers Twitter account and the DfT Careers account for the latest. You can also subscribe to our email alerts.

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  1. Comment by James Saperia posted on

    It's great DVLA is considering how to use technology for future projects. Back to the present day and the only way the registered keeper of a vehicle can notify DVLA of their new address (when they move home) is to fill in the appropriate section of the V5C Registration Certificate (logbook) in black ink using capital letters and then post it to DVLA in Swansea. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA when your address changes. Surely the introduction of a simple online service to perform this basic task would be worthy of consideration?

    • Replies to James Saperia>

      Comment by Julie Riseley posted on

      Hello James

      We are working towards transforming all our services in line with our digital strategy. Changing the address on the vehicle record is one such service that is in this change pipeline.

  2. Comment by Drew Reed posted on

    Thankyou for this. If you do this again how about inviting the public to take part. This could be done using a webnar.

    • Replies to Drew Reed>

      Comment by Simon Cromwell posted on

      Hi Drew

      Thanks for the suggestion, we will take this into consideration for the hack events we have planned for 2020.

  3. Comment by Neil posted on

    Very very interesting. Although when is DVLA going to introduce digital logbooks? I do like reading what some teams came up with. Sounds like it was a fun couple of days.

    • Replies to Neil>

      Comment by External Communications team posted on

      Hello Neil

      We are continually reviewing and improving our services in line with our customers expectation and requirements. There is no firm delivery date for when this will be released.

      We will use this blog to keep you up to speed on all things digital at DVLA.