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Mississippi Debuts Chatbot, Virtual Reality Features on New State Website

In its latest website redesign, Mississippi included virtual reality, a chatbot, and digital voice assistance technologies in hopes of improving the citizen experience. The makeover of ms.gov includes a brighter, more modern look with a photo of Amazon’s Echo welcoming users on the front page.

“Citizens’ expectations of digital platforms continue to evolve,” said Craig Orgeron, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services. “Mississippi has responded to those growing needs by thinking outside the browser and bringing successful private sector technologies to government. Technologies like machine learning and virtual reality.”

Users can either select from a pre-existing list of frequently mentioned topics or type their own question to Missi, Mississippi’s first chatbot. (Image: ms.gov)

On the website, users can interact with Missi, Mississippi’s first artificial conversational chatbot. The bot is designed to deliver information to citizens in real time. Unlike its human counterparts, this customer service staffer never takes weekends or holidays off. According to the state, Missi supports more than 100 requests and questions, including “How do I renew my hunting license?” “Where can I purchase a driver’s license?” and “I need help with my taxes.” Missi can direct users to the state agency they’re looking for, send links to an applicable online service, and even guide users through an online payment.

In its first foray into virtual reality, Mississippi is giving its website users the opportunity to tour the state Capitol. By using a VR headset, mobile device, or computer, website visitors can take a virtual reality tour of the building in Jackson. Pop-up menus inside the VR tour give users more information about the historic building. State officials hope this tour will aid in not only educational settings, but also tourism.

In addition to debuting new and emerging technologies, the state also beefed up its existing customer service offerings. The state’s first Amazon Alexa Digital Voice assistant, Ask Mississippi, now includes traffic alerts and top Mississippi news. Users can also set important state-related reminders; for example, users can now ask, “Hey Alexa, ask Mississippi to set a driver’s license renewal reminder for Tuesday, May 16th.” In addition to the new features, Ask Mississippi can help citizens stay on top of important dates, contact state agencies, and verify elected officials and state facts. It can even tell users more about the state through the request, “Alexa, ask Mississippi to tell me a story.”

myTracks, a feature that allows visitors to save relevant links to an online “vault” for future use, has been added to the website’s home page to improve the user experience. The state has also improved its two notification features, myAlerts and myReminders, to make it easier for users to remember important deadlines and state guidelines and regulations.

In addition to improving the user experience, Mississippi was able to complete these upgrades at no cost to the taxpayer. The state’s digital government partner, Mississippi Interactive, has a self-funded business model. The upgrades were paid for via a small transaction fee each time a government service is accessed through the website.

 

Kate DeNardi
About Kate DeNardi
Kate DeNardi is 21st Century State & Local's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs
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