Meet the White House “Bot” that Uses Facebook Messenger to Connect to Citizens

White House bot to use Facebook Messenger to talk to citizens

The White House today revealed a chatbot so citizens can use Facebook Messenger to ask questions of president Barack Obama. The bot has been open-sourced, and the Drupal module has been posted to GitHub so that it can “empower other governments and agencies who already use Drupal to power their digital experiences.”

While the White House bot doesn’t actually answer any of your questions, it does confirm your contact information, after which your question is sent for consideration to become one of the 10 questions that the president reads from the public every day.

President Obama says that these letters from the public “do more to keep me in touch with what’s happening around the country than just about anything else.” The bot can be used directly on the web, so if you want to send a message to your president, CLICK HERE to visit the bot’s official residence.

Users can also head over to the White House Facebook page and click the “chat” button.

Drupal is essentially a content management software that provides security, reliability and, most of all, the ability to easily author content. White House Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman elaborates on the White House bot:

“While Drupal may not be the platform others would immediately consider for building a bot, this new White House module will allow non-developers to create bot interactions (with customized language and workflows), and empower other governments and agencies who already use Drupal to power their digital experiences.”

The chatbot itself responds fairly quickly, and one site actually sent a test message and completed the process in under two minutes.

The State of North Carolina is already looking at how chatbots can help governments communicate better with the people it governs. Testing is being conducted at the North Carolina Innovation Center, and the center’s first project is to create a chatbot that can respond to basic IT questions from the staff. It will also help citizens more easily find specific services they are looking for.

Bots are now becoming more prolific as a way to save time and money. Facebook already uses bots to help people order flowers online, and team collaboration company Slack has made it easier for people to develop and run bots on their platform.

Over time, these bots will get smarter and be able to answer more complex questions, but for now the majority of them are only able to answer simple queries.

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