AI-driven Virtual Agent Network for entrepreneurs
Starting up Smoothly is a network of readily available, AI-powered virtual assistants to help foreigners set up businesses in Finland.
With a bold vision of a human-centric society, the Finnish government joined the global race to attract the world’s most forward-thinking talent.
Facing an aging population and a shrinking workforce, Finland wanted to attract the world’s most forward-thinking new businesses to help it fund its high-quality public services. To do so, the government wanted one single place for digitally-savvy entrepreneurs to get the answers they needed to set up a business. Rather than offer the lengthy and fragmented process of working separately with different government agencies.
Specifically, it wanted a solution that aligned to its Aurora national AI program, which helps citizens and companies alike utilize services in a timely, sustainable manner. Their goal was to use new technology to unite the wider ecosystem in a way that was natural for citizens and predictive of their wants and needs.
Turning this vision into reality required an ecosystem of agency collaboration, innovation, deep customer understanding and intuitive technology.
The Finnish Immigration Service collaborated with Accenture that then evaluated and brought in a start-up called boost.ai. Next, they started co-operating with the Finnish Patent and Registration Office and the Finnish Tax Administration. In only three months, this ecosystem of organisations created one of the world’s first known AI-driven Virtual Agent Networks – a group of AI-enabled virtual assistants providing a much more seamless and unified service for entrepreneurs who were interested in bringing their business to Finland.
This new “Living Service” consists of three AI-enabled virtual assistants: one for immigration issues, another for business patents and registrations and a third for tax-related queries. These virtual assistants are powerful on their own. But together they offer a single, seamless experience to the end-user.
The opportunities for connecting services are endless and would bring huge benefits to users. This Virtual Agent Network brings together organisations across sectors to serve citizens and business alike with a holistic, proactive and human-centred approach.
Helps with immigration and citizenship issues.
Supports questions related to setting up a business in Finland.
Answers tax-related queries.
A Virtual Agent Network sets the bar for how digital services should function. Instead of figuring out who to contact and then making multiple calls to different agencies, customers now have a single place to get their questions answered – anytime, anywhere.
Customers can access all three virtual assistants through a single chat window that synchronises to each organisations’ websites. The individual agencies do not need to share data between each other – instead, the AI network directly connects the customer and the right agency. For example, if you ask Kamu a question about taxation, VeroBot recognises the topic and can immediately respond.
Public service employees also benefit from this AI-driven service. Now that virtual agents can answer frequently asked questions, anticipate needs and automate routine tasks, employees can focus on more complex cases that need human support.
The idea for AI-driven services that connect different entities may have been born in the Accenture Innovation Hub, but to succeed, collaboration was key. By combining Accenture’s innovation architecture with the technology capabilities of boost.ai and the government agencies’ deep customer knowledge, an ecosystem focused on providing better customer experience and engagement became a reality.
"This is a great example of government, technology companies and startups working together to create solutions to improve lives of our citizens."
Cross-government collaboration has helped these Finnish agencies redefine their customer service. This Virtual Agent Network even helped Migri win BearingPoint’s 2020 award for Best Choice in Digital Service, with the Tax Administration placing fourth in the same category. The Patent and Registration Office, for its part, has developed its customer service with AI, focusing even stronger to the needs of customers with foreign background.
The adaptability of Virtual Agent Network to other areas of government is promising, given the speed of service and low cost to scale. It represents a significant step towards “Finland as a service” and a full “Living Government” that empowers public agencies to deliver relevant, connected and adaptable experiences that build trust between governments and citizens. And that is an asset when foreign talent is considering the right country in which to set up their business.
The courage and open-mindedness of these three agencies, engaging in groundbreaking cross-sectoral collaboration not only sets an example for other government agencies, but shows that the Finnish government is a forward-thinking counterpart.
"The lessons we’ve learned: Have a vision. Be brave. Be ambitious. Have a limited but challenging scope. Start – don’t just plan. Experiment. Learn. Scale up."