Here's a bit of background on the phenomenon that is ChatGPT, and some insight into how Boxfusion is integrating OpenAI's APIs into various public sector projects.
If you’re on social media at all, by now you’ve probably heard about a new technology called ChatGPT. In short, ChatGPT is a “large language model” developed by OpenAI, that responds to people’s natural-language queries with answers that seem like they could have come from a well-informed human. In short, it’s an incredible leap forward for public-facing AI technologies, and one we’re very excited about here at Boxfusion.
First, some background. OpenAI is an organisation dedicated to building artificial intelligence solutions. They trained ChatGPT on 570 GB of text from a wide variety of sources; this process has given the AI the knowledge it needs to generate answers, as well as examples of how to structure the language it uses so that the average human can understand it.
And since you can store A LOT of text in just one megabyte - easily 1-2 novels’ worth of text - and ChatGPT was trained on five hundred and seventy thousand megabytes of data, ChatGPT now has intricate knowledge of how people communicate and a massive amount of data to draw on, allowing it to generate answers on the fly that attempt to explain the questions asked of it.
In doing research for this article, we found that interacting with ChatGPT is very much like talking to a highly-educated and extremely well-informed professor – rewarding and interesting, with the quality of the answers received very much shaped by the quality of the questions asked. The only caveat to keep in mind is that you must scrutinise the answers provided, as ChatGPT isn’t always 100% accurate. If you’re uninformed on the topic being discussed, for example, it’s possible to be fooled into thinking ChatGPT is smarter than it is. This should improve over time, of course, as the AI ingests more data.
Answers from ChatGPT
Here’s what it said when we asked it how ChatGPT could potentially help the South African government:
“One of the key ways in which ChatGPT can assist the South African government is through automation of repetitive tasks. This can help to improve efficiency and reduce the workload on government employees. For example, ChatGPT can be used to automate the process of responding to frequently asked questions. This can free up government employees to focus on more complex tasks, and can also help to improve the accessibility of government services for citizens.”
This is exactly what Boxfusion has been working to achieve with the solutions developed for our public sector clients. It’s the reason we leverage the latest technologies, including AI, in our projects. And so far we’ve had great success.
But ChatGPT’s capabilities go a lot deeper than automation. It offers powerful analysis capabilities that can help people make sense of the data they generate, something that’s vital when it comes to measuring success and deriving insights that can inform the next steps of any government plan or initiative. Many of our solutions offer this functionality as well.
When pushed for clarification, the AI said: “ChatGPT can assist the South African government by providing data analysis and insights. The model has the ability to process and analyze (sic) large amounts of data, which can help to inform decision-making and policy development. For example, ChatGPT can be used to analyze (sic) data on service delivery and citizen satisfaction, in order to identify areas where improvements are needed. This can help the government to target its resources more effectively, and to ensure that services are meeting the needs of citizens.”
This is very much where Boxfusion plays. But while ChatGPT is currently being tested, Boxfusion stands ready with our own solutions that can do exactly this, right now.
When asked about other areas where ChatGPT can assist, this is the reply we received:
“ChatGPT can also assist the South African government with communication and customer service. The model has the ability to understand and respond to text input in multiple languages, which can help to improve accessibility for citizens who speak languages other than English. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used in natural language processing applications such as speech recognition and text-to-speech, which can help to improve accessibility for citizens with disabilities.”
So by leveraging its natural language processing abilities, and supporting multiple languages, ChatGPT can allow speakers of a variety of languages to interact with various government systems in their own tongue. In a multicultural country such as ours, this is an invaluable function that could make more government systems and services accessible to a larger number of people.
Another way ChatGPT claims it can help the government is by generating reports, summaries, and minutes of meetings, to keep records of proceedings, this can save time and resources while keeping the proceedings organised and easily retrievable.
This is something Boxfusion is currently working on as well, in a format that we know works well in the South African public sector. Here, we have something the AI doesn’t – practical experience of what works and what doesn't.
In addition, ChatGPT says it can provide data-driven insights and recommendations to support the development and implementation of policies. This can help the government to identify areas where changes are needed, and to develop evidence-based policies that are more likely to be effective.
When asked to draw a conclusion from the answers it had already supplied, ChatGPT had this to say:
“In conclusion, ChatGPT can assist the South African government in providing better services to its citizens by automating repetitive tasks, providing data analysis and insights, and assisting with communication and customer service. The model's ability to process and analyze (sic) large amounts of data, generate reports and summaries, and provide data-driven recommendations can help the government to target its resources more effectively and ensure that services are meeting the needs of citizens. The use of ChatGPT can help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government services, but it should be done within the framework of laws and regulations, and with appropriate ethical and privacy considerations in place.”
Boxfusion Weighs In
“ChatGPT is a fascinating technology, and we’re glad to see the public getting a chance to see a real Artificial Intelligence at work for themselves,” says Boxfusion COO Ian Houvet. "Here at Boxfusion, we're working on our own projects involving OpenAI’s technology: we currently have internal teams working with OpenAI’s APIs to ‘fine-tune’ the GPT-3 models on which ChatGPT is built. We are training it on government-specific content so that it can provide more accurate answers in the future around government services and capabilities.
Houvet continues, “The first project that will benefit from this work is our new SmartGov Policy Advisor module. We will train or fine-tune a ChatGPT model with government-specific policies and regulations that are not available on the web and therefore not within the standard ChatGPT knowledge base, so as to allow it to answer government- and department-specific questions.
“For example, when our work is finished, users will be able to get immediate and accurate answers to questions like “Can I procure XYZ?”, “Am I eligible for ABC?” and “What are the rules for procuring YZE?” etc.
Relieving the burden
“What this does is it relieves the burden on government officials in Finance, Legal, and HR from fielding these commonly asked questions,” continues Houvet. “There are three big benefits of doing this: firstly, it frees these officials to focus on more important tasks; secondly, it improves understanding of policies and regulations; and third, it improves compliance and financial management. These are all big wins for government.
“We also have a citizen ChatBot that can benefit from ChatGPT’s excellent natural-language processing abilities, which we will work at integrating in the future. And then there are certain ChatGPT functions relating to programming that could even be used to improve some of our internal functions,” Houvet concludes.
Boxfusion CTO Jullius Segole adds, “Our technology is always evolving, too. For example, over time, the AI-driven image recognition we currently use in our eAdmissions solution that scans and verifies the authenticity of submitted documents will get better than it is today. The reports we generate for government based on their use of SmartGov for Admin and SmartGov for Citizens will likewise improve and offer even deeper insights than they currently do. And what those solutions can do today will expand, giving our public sector customers even more functionalities at their fingertips.
“That’s what we love about technology here at Boxfusion - it is constantly evolving, and there’s always something new to evaluate. You can bet that we’ll make use of technologies like OpenAI’s API as best we can to benefit our clients, just like we do with any new technology that comes along,” says Segole.
Segole closes with the following: “Ultimately, we found that our chats with ChatGPT reaffirmed the notion that we’re moving in the right direction. The technology that underpins ChatGPT’s success is already being integrated into several of our own solutions, empowering us to keep doing what we do best: using bleeding-edge technologies and our deep understanding of government to create the most compelling products for government and citizens,” Segole concludes.
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"Here at Boxfusion [...] we currently have internal teams working with OpenAI’s APIs to ‘fine-tune’ the GPT-3 models on which ChatGPT is built."
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