After the birth of a child, everything is new, so there is not much time for dealing with public authorities. The successful “Kinderleicht zum Kindergeld” (Child Benefit becomes Child’s Play) service has been relieving parents who have their child in Hamburg of bureaucracy since 2018. Without having to visit public authorities, you can give your newborn a legal name, have the birth recorded at the registry office, order birth certificates, transfer money conveniently and apply for child benefit at the same time. After less than ten days, the mail arrives at your home with the birth certificates, the child benefit notice and the child's tax ID. The child benefit is transferred directly to the account and the child is automatically entered in the registration system. Since June 22, 2020, this has also been possible digitally. The online service “Kinderleicht zum Kindergeld” (Child Benefit becomes Child’s Play) is available to parents via smartphone, tablet or a terminal device at the clinic. The information is sent electronically to the registry office and the family benefits office - now there is also no need to submit original documents, printing costs of forms and much more. Authentication and signature are done with the electronic ID card and PIN. This is not only convenient for parents, but also offers the administration the opportunity for fully electronic data processing.
The Hamburg Senate Chancellery, Fraunhofer FOKUS and Fraunhofer IDMT are now taking the step into AI: the unprecedented joint integration of a voice assistant into an online service makes the popular service even more convenient for parents and creates optimal barrier-free access.
Applications made easy - with simple and intelligent communication
Since the joint successful implementation of the artificial intelligence (AI)-based demonstrator “Sprachassistent für Bürgerdienste” (Speech Assistance for Citizen Services) in early 2019, Fraunhofer FOKUS and Fraunhofer IDMT have been cooperating with the aim of developing a flexible voice assistant solution for public authorities and public institutions. To this end, three building blocks based on different, very powerful AI approaches will be combined: Fraunhofer IDMT in Oldenburg develops the speech recognition component (speech-to-text), which is insensitive to noise and optimally adaptable to application-specific technical terms. The intelligent dialog guidance and process control developed by FOKUS, which can be flexibly adapted to different specialist scenarios, works primarily based on inference and builds on a constraint handling rules engine.
The versatile speech synthesis component (text-to-speech), also implemented by FOKUS, uses the latest specialized deep learning methods. Across the entire system, the confidential treatment of speech and derived text data is ensured in compliance with the highest data protection standards through local data processing (in an “on-premises private cloud” infrastructure).
In the current project, this Fraunhofer speech assistance solution is being integrated into the online service “Kinderleicht zum Kindergeld” (Child Benefit becomes Child’s Play) in close cooperation with the Senate Chancellery project and the service provider Dataport, and subjected to extensive practical tests in order to be able to advise and support citizens in the future when applying online for administrative services through simple and intelligent communication in a natural language.
“Our goal is for parents to be able to provide their details digitally to the administration simply, quickly and conveniently directly at the clinic or at home using their smartphone, and for the services to be provided by post after a short time and, for example, to have the child benefit in their account just a few days later, ” explains Dr. Brigitte Klamroth, project manager for “Kinderleicht zum Kindergeld” (Child Benefit becomes Child’s Play) at the Office for IT and Digitalization of the Hamburg Senate Chancellery. “With the integration of the voice assistant, Hamburg is once again becoming a pioneer and, with this project, also presents a good example for the implementation of such systems in other areas of the administration.”
“AI has been used by public administration for dialog with citizens for quite some time - but only in the form of chatbots that only provide information” adds Lutz Nentwig, project manager at Fraunhofer FOKUS. “Our system can simultaneously support users in submitting applications and answer individual questions - a big step toward easy and fast usability, and thus a more citizen-friendly public administration overall.”
Barrier-free and Data Protection-compliant
In the wake of the German government's digitization program - the Online Access Act (OZG) - the development of intelligent digital voice assistants has high practical relevance. While these have already established themselves in the online economy, in the smart home sector and in private use as far-reaching alternatives to conventional interaction with touchscreen and mouse, digitally voice-assisted application procedures are still uncharted territory in public administration - for reasons including data protection and data sovereignty. Both are guaranteed in the Hamburg project: The processed data is located in secure, BSI-certified data centers operated by IT service provider Dataport directly located in the city.
The new AI voice assistance is an important step for the easy dialog between Hamburg's administration and its citizens: Digital, natural-language citizen services not only help to make administrative processes more efficient and attractive, but are also a big plus in terms of accessibility. For visually impaired or mobility-impaired users in particular, these technologies provide helpful support to enable participation in modern life.
- Senate Chancellery of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg
- Dataport AÖR
- Fraunhofer IDMT