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EU - HANDS : Helping Answers Decision Service

HANDS logo

The Helping Answers Decision Service (HANDS) is an online communication service offered by Public Bodies (PB: see footnote) to their users/citizens, based on advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques. The end users access HANDS through the PB's web site, and type their questions on the keyboard using everyday language (without needing to use any keywords or Boolean operators). The submission of the query activates the process and the HANDS service retrieves the relevant information in terms of:

  1. questions/answers pair(s) matching the user's query among those question/answer pairs stored in the PB's repository of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ),
  2. documents available from a repository of publicly available documents,
  3. automatic selection of the PB's office(s) competent to answer the query, and of their email addresses.

The HANDS service - grounded on mature NLP Technologies that underwent a thorough and successful functional validation in the EDEN Research and Development Project it derives from - will be implemented and validated from a Trans-European market perspective in three European Public Administrations (Bologna, Edinburgh, Saarbruecken) and one Public Utility (the Italian AGAC - supplier of energy and environment services, which represents a new market in comparison with the R&D phase of the project, limited to the PA's environment).

The aim of the market validation process is to investigate the administrative and economic viability of the proposed service, identifying the conditions for the future deployment of the HANDS service on a European scale. The in depth costs/benefits analysis of the service implementation will be particularly focused both on the internal PB's users, with specific regard to the service management perspectives, since the assessment of the viability of the HANDS service considerably depends on its strengths and weaknesses relative to other solutions, in the areas of integration, maintenance of content and linguistic resources, as well as user training and acceptance.

The HANDS service is conceived and intended to be brought onto the European market as a domain independent online communication service, open to use in different contexts. To this end, each Pilot Site will test and validate the HANDS service in two different application domains, marking a significant step forward from the original EDEN R&D project, where the developed tools were validated in a unique application domain (Urban Planning). It is planned to put the HANDS service in place in the early phase of the market validation project: the validation iterative process will begin within the fourth month of the project (out of a whole project duration of 18 months), and will include a second validation pilot that will build on the results of the first one, paving the way to the final product refinements and deployment plan.

The main advantages of the HANDS service lie in the new opportunity for the Public Bodies (PB) to offer a single point of access where end users can smoothly interact with a system based on Web technologies; and on the possibility for the Public Bodies' officers to have at their disposal a tool supporting advanced facilities to interact with the end-users in a standardised way.

Public Bodies

By "Public Body" it is meant every public organisation offering services of public interest to the citizens, including Local Authorities, public corporations and utility companies. (back)

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