Derby City Council is embarking on the next phase of introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to help protect and further develop our services for citizens.

AI is the latest advancement in technology and is already widely used in internet search engines, social media, and many other apps. The chances are that you’re probably using it without realising.

This emerging technology is an important tool in helping to transform our services for the future, so we can continue to deliver them well and efficiently, in the face of increasing financial pressures.

The City Council is pioneering the use of AI technology in local government in partnership with ICS.AI, a leader in developing AI solutions in the public sector, and has now signed a £7 million contract to deliver the next stage of its project.

Staff working in three service areas will soon be using AI copilots to help them carry out their jobs more effectively. AI technology is called a copilot because it acts as a smart helper for staff, supporting them in their day-to-day work, while staff members are the pilots who guide them. 

By using AI to take on routine tasks, they will be enhancing their own skills and freeing up more time to concentrate on the activities and tasks that provide real value to those most in need of support. They will also use AI software to quickly generate information to help them make informed decisions.

This first phase is expected to be in place in four months with plans in place to roll out phases 2 and 3 across other services once it is running successfully, and then widening its adoption further across the Council.

The new contract with ICS.AI is expected to generate £3.925 million of savings during the 2024/25 financial year, rising to a minimum of £12.25 million annually once fully delivered.

During phase 1, teams working in adult social care will use the emerging technology to review care packages and help them decide if someone who needs support living at home is receiving the right level of care. They will also use AI to answer more simple and straightforward enquiries from the public and professionals, so they can focus on dealing with queries which need their expertise.

Across Customer Services, the Darcie and Ali (for Derby Homes) digital assistants for web-based and telephone enquiries will be upgraded and expanded to meet needs of our citizens. We will also use AI to answer emails quickly, or flag them with Council colleagues to deal with.

We will also be introducing AI solutions to support our recovery of outstanding debt, which will allow us to gather and analyse information from across all our systems in a more timely manner than staff can currently do. With this AI assistance the Council will be able to identify where it needs to offer support to minimise debt, and maximise income collection.

Across the Council AI technology will be used safely and ethically. Every stage will be fully tested to make sure it works and is wholly compliant with data protection laws. The Council will continue to work with its public forums to make sure everyone has access to its services.

Councillor Baggy Shanker, Leader of Derby City Council, said:

The continued financial challenges in the local government sector mean we must consider how we can operate most efficiently, while continuing to deliver the best service possible. Derby City Council is a trailblazer in using AI, and we will always make sure the needs of all our citizens are at the heart of this project. New advances bring risks, which we will manage, but also some incredible opportunities to deliver the best outcomes for our citizens in a more efficient and cost effective way.

Martin Neale, Chief Executive Officer of ICS.AI, said:

Our collaboration with Derby City Council is at the forefront of AI innovation in the public sector. The introduction of AI copilots in various service areas demonstrates the breadth and adaptability of our SMART platform in transforming public services. It marks a significant step towards the future of more efficient and effective public services, but also underscores Derby’s commitment to the wellbeing of its residents. This journey is just the beginning, we are excited to see how these new AI copilots will redefine service delivery and set new standards in public service innovation.

The use of AI technology will complement ways in which the public can contact the Council, who will always be able to speak to a member of staff, or see someone face to face, during business hours if they prefer.