Municipal, government and private service providers across Europe are seeking to harness new technologies to deliver services in innovative and more cost effective ways whilst always trying to reach more people. One of the biggest issues that faces service providers is the so-called digital divide: the barrier between those who happily use IT and those who cannot or think they do not want to use it. The AVANTI project sought to address some of the impediments to access to digitally provided services faced by ordinary people.
AVANTI software demonstrators took the form of embodied digital assistants or avatars. Also employing Natural Language Processing technology, the AVANTI avatars provided information on specific public services by means of conversation-like interaction with an animated character.
The project made avatar-based services operational in a range of service areas, including:
- Housing benefits advice
- Citizen consultation
- Library and recreational services
- Problem registration
- Entitlement to discounts for elderly people
ITC evaluated to what extent the AVANTI demonstrators met their objectives. Criteria and indicators were developed with the 4 public authorities involved, to elaborate on the aim of improved acceptability, accessibility and inclusion. Qualitative and quantitative methods were deployed with groups of service users (and non-users). Analysis of people's views about and interactions with the demonstrators were used to make software improvements, and finally to assess the project's contribution to European Union policies and social objectives.
You can download the conclusions of the assessment in PDF format (235kb)
The 4 Public Authorities involved were London Borough of Lewisham, Kista Borough/City of Stockholm, City of Edinburgh Council, and Ventspils City Council (Latvia). Research and development partners in addition to ITC were Microsoft, Fujitsu, and CIRN (a research institute started in cooperation between state agencies and the University of Umea in 1998).
Links on this website
- City of Edinburgh Council
- London Borough of Lewisham
- Kista Borough/City of Stockholm
- Ventspils City Council (Latvia)
- Microsoft (UK)
- Fujitsu Consulting (UK)
Each publication is linked to its reference
- Conversations with Non-Human Actors in E-Democracy
- Avanti Project: "Demonstration Analysis and Assessment Report"