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Comune di Padova: Keeping local citizens informed in real time with Google Cloud

About Comune di Padova

Comune di Padova is the local administrative division of the city of Padua, in the northern Italian region of Veneto, providing the 400,000 citizens of Padua and its surrounding boroughs with a range of essential services.

Industries: Government & Public Sector
Location: Italy

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In order to provide its citizens with instant, up-to-date information about air quality levels without overburdening its employees, Comune di Padova turned to a voicebot solution based on Google Cloud.

Google Cloud results

  • Saves municipal workers 20 hours a week, enabling them to focus on high-value services
  • Provides citizens of Padua with instant, accurate, round-the-clock information
  • Enabled quick, streamlined deployment with Cloud Natural Language

Successfully resolves 96% of incoming contacts

One of the major benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) is that it enables more tasks to be performed by fewer people. This is of particular interest to the public sector, where agents are often faced with high volumes of requests and not enough resources to address them. The OECD predicts that within a few years, AI will free up one third of government employees’ time, enabling them to focus on more high-value tasks that will make a true difference to citizens' lives.

Alberto Corò, Director of Information Services, Comune di Padova, is well aware of how precious government employees’ time can be. "The municipality of Padua has 2,000 employees working across 22 departments. These employees serve over 400,000 people living in the city and its neighboring boroughs," Corò says. "We’re strongly committed to providing our citizens with exemplary services, but for that, we have to give our employees the time and resources they need." Comune di Padova turned to AI to ease the administrative burden on its employees, and its first step was to automate calls from local citizens related to air quality levels using a voicebot solution based on Google Cloud.

"The fact that the solution was based on Google Cloud was a major plus point for us. As far as we’re concerned, Google is ahead of the game when it comes to artificial intelligence, and a real guarantee of reliability and stability."

Alberto Corò, Director of Information Services, Comune di Padova

Using AI to help public sector workers focus on what really matters

Across the European Union, directives for limiting nitrogen oxide emissions aim to protect citizens from air pollution-related health effects. In the north of Italy, a color-coded three tier system limits access to city centers for certain types of vehicles once a specific air quality limit is flagged. "Green means no restrictions, orange means some restrictions, and red means more polluting vehicles are banned from the city center. But the system is not always easy to understand." Alberto explains. These air quality restrictions run each year from October to April and in the past, put considerable strain on Comune di Padova’s information services, which were inundated with calls as soon as pollution levels hit critical levels. "We tried to make the information available on our web portal, but it was just too complex. Our Environment Office would receive up to 3,000 calls throughout the season, which put a lot of pressure on their team. We had to come up with a solution that would enable them to focus on their work without having their time consumed by routine queries," Corò says.

Comune di Padova worked with technology provider Esosphera to implement Gaia, an AI-powered voicebot. "The fact that the solution was based on Google Cloud was a major plus point for us. As far as we’re concerned, Google Cloud is ahead of the game when it comes to artificial intelligence, and a real guarantee of reliability and stability," Corò says.

"Text-to-Speech enabled us to generate a custom voice that sounds far more natural than the other options on the market. It also means we will be able to offer other language versions in the future."

Marco Bonel, Sales & Marketing Executive, Esosphera

Providing citizens with instant, up-to-date information

Gaia was implemented in December 2021 and is, on average, able to resolve 96% of incoming calls. When a person calls Comune di Padova helpline, Gaia provides information about the current alert level and asks for details about their itinerary, type of car and the reason for their journey. The voicebot then informs them about any restrictions for their specific case and sends a follow-up text message with a link to Comune di Padova’s online portal. If Gaia is not able to resolve the query, the caller is then contacted by a human operator.

To enable this, Gaia uses Natural Language AI to normalize and derive insights from customer speech. "Using Cloud Natural Language enabled us to go live quickly without needing to develop in-house solutions. This allows us to focus on refining internal semantic interpretation algorithms," says Marco Bonel, Sales & Marketing Executive, Esosphera. The solution also makes use of Text-to-Speech. "Text-to-Speech enabled us to generate a custom voice that sounds far more natural than the other options on the market. It also means we will be able to offer other language versions in the future," says Bonel.

The voicebot is available round the clock, with close to 70% of calls taking place outside of Comune di Padova’s office hours. "Over one season, Gaia has successfully handled around 2,000 calls, each of which lasted a few minutes," Corò says, "which means a lot of time saved for our employees. We’ve calculated that Gaia saves our team around 20 hours per week, between the time actually spent on the phone and the time spent manning it."

"This was our first experience with Google Cloud technology and it’s been a very positive one. We’re looking forward to using Google Cloud to further improve the lives of our citizens and employees."

Alberto Corò, Director of Information Services, Comune di Padova

Looking to the future with Google Home integration

"It’s early days, but we’re already thinking about how we can build on the solution and expand it to other services," Corò says, "One possibility is integrating data about heating limitations in public and private buildings once pollution reaches a certain alert level."

Integration with Google Home and Android Auto is also potentially on the cards for Gaia. "Enabling people to access information instantly from the comfort of their vehicles seems like the natural next step," says Corò. Comune di Padova is also considering an internal IT voicebot aimed at municipal employees.

Whatever the future holds, Comune di Padova will continue working with Google Cloud to make sure that the city keeps running smoothly. "This was our first experience with Google Cloud technology and it’s been a very positive one," says Corò. "We’re looking forward to using Google Cloud to further improve the lives of our citizens and employees."

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About Comune di Padova

Comune di Padova is the local administrative division of the city of Padua, in the northern Italian region of Veneto, providing the 400,000 citizens of Padua and its surrounding boroughs with a range of essential services.

Industries: Government & Public Sector
Location: Italy