Ulster County is one of the first in the nation to partner with IBM and utilize AI tools to answer residents’ COVID-19 questions
KINGSTON, N.Y. - As a response to residents' questions about COVID-19, Ulster County Government launched today a new online chat tool to provide an interactive platform to respond to residents’ questions and concerns as well as serve as a resource for County-specific information. The online chat tool can be found on Ulster County’s COVID-19 Virtual Center found here and is available for all visitors. This will increase capacity and improve responsiveness with instantaneous replies, so residents can receive information 24/7. The online chat can easily assist residents looking for answers about symptoms, testing sites, as well as the current status of schools, businesses, transportation and other public services. The online chat tool was developed in partnership with IBM utilizing IBM Watson Assistant for Citizens.
“Now more than ever, government must innovate to meet the needs of our residents,” said County Executive Pat Ryan. “In Ulster County, we have stepped up our game and we will continue to push boundaries and explore even more ways to help our community during this trying time. I want to thank IBM for their assistance in allowing us to be one of the first governments in the nation to use this cutting edge technology. This new approach will undoubtedly streamline our ability to serve and protect Ulster County.”
"Governments are turning to AI solutions to help them improve citizen satisfaction, so agencies can deal with the most crucial requests," said Stephen Lafleche, IBM's Senior Executive for New York State. "We have developed AI on a global basis for many years, and we are proud to bring this technology to Ulster County to help them meet the growing demand for information by the county's citizens."
IBM Watson Assistant is a virtual agent that provides an engaging experience for users to get even their most complex issues solved. Watson Assistant for Citizens is a virtual agent that supports both chat and speech interfaces, and is pre-loaded to understand and respond to common questions about COVID-19, based on the latest CDC information and other local sources.
In addition to the online chat, residents can continue to utilize the Ulster County COVID-19 Hotline at 845-443-8888. Since standing up the hotline last month, it has received over 10,000 calls, resulting in 4,000 calls directly responded to by operators. The hotline is now fully accessible in Spanish.
Additionally, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Ulster County Government continue to use social media to bolster constituent response during this time and are available to residents via Facebook Messenger. Last month, the County Executive’s Facebook gained nearly 5,000 new followers, reached 629,121 people, and earned 713,253 impressions and 163,910 engagements. Last month, the County Executive’s Facebook Lives including Town Halls, press updates, and other public updates on COVID-19 had nearly 150,000 viewers.
There are currently 462 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and seven fatalities in Ulster County.
For additional information about COVID-19 and to access the online chat tool, please visit:
Ulster County COVID-19 Hotline: 845-443-8888
NYS Coronavirus Information Hotline: 888-364-3065