May 12, 2024

May 12, 2024

Mr. Nags: An AI Assistant for Civic Engagement

Written by:

Sep 1, 2023

Luv Singh and Sonia Rebecca Menezes

Luv Singh and Sonia Rebecca Menezes

This blog explores the potential of Mr. Nags, an AI-powered solution designed to improve civic engagement.

This blog explores the potential of Mr. Nags, an AI-powered solution designed to improve civic engagement.

This blog explores the potential of Mr. Nags, an AI-powered solution designed to improve civic engagement.

In India, as in many countries, citizens wrestle with a range of everyday civic problems – malfunctioning streetlights, roads that need repair, and ongoing infrastructure maintenance. 

Traditionally, tackling these issues involves navigating a bureaucratic maze of complaint forms and follow-ups. This process discourages most citizens from reporting problems, leaving communities to grapple with persistent issues.

But what if there was a simpler, more efficient way to address these concerns?

Our goal is to create a system that empowers citizens to report issues with a few taps on their phone, a system that cuts through red tape and gets things done. Read on to discover how Mr. Nags uses AI to streamline civic engagement and empower citizens to improve their surroundings.

Understanding the problem

Traditionally, addressing civic concerns involves navigating through a multi-step complaint-raising process established by local government bodies.

What does this process typically look like?

Let's say you want to report a road issue on your street. You would need to identify the correct department, fill out forms providing detailed information about the issue, and possibly follow up multiple times to ensure action is taken.

This could mean visiting a government office in person, making phone calls, or submitting details through a website.

Clearly, this process isn't without its challenges. For starters, it requires citizens to invest time and effort to report issues, often with no immediate confirmation that their complaint has been registered or will be addressed promptly.

The need to provide detailed information, such as the exact location and nature of the problem, can be daunting for many, especially those not comfortable with technology or bureaucratic procedures.

This complexity leads to a significant drop-off rate in the complaint creation funnel. Many citizens, faced with these hurdles, choose not to report issues at all, resulting in persistent problems that degrade the quality of community life and erode trust in local governance.

This gap between citizens and government bodies highlights the urgent need for a more accessible, user-friendly approach to civic engagement.

The promise of AI in addressing civic issues

Imagine a system where reporting a civic issue is as simple as sending a message to a friend. This is the vision behind the AI prototype known as Mr. Nags. Designed to streamline the complaint-raising process, Mr. Nags aims to bridge the gap between citizens and local government bodies, making civic engagement more accessible and less time-consuming.

  • Accessible and conversational interface:

    • Mr. Nags is a chatbot hosted on Telegram, a platform chosen for its ease of use and wide accessibility.

    • The chatbot interacts with users in a conversational manner, making it feel like chatting with a helpful assistant rather than filling out a formal complaint form.

  • Innovative features for a seamless experience:

    • Voice and text inputs: Users can choose to type out their complaint or simply send a voice message, catering to different user preferences and situations.

    • Photo uploads: Including a photo with your complaint can often convey more than words alone. Mr. Nags allows users to attach images, providing valuable visual context to the issue being reported.

    • Automatic location detection: Figuring out and entering precise location details can be tedious. Mr. Nags simplifies this by auto-detecting the user's location, ensuring accurate and hassle-free reporting.

By integrating these user-friendly features, Mr. Nags not only makes it easier for citizens to report issues but also ensures that the information collected is structured and precise, helping in faster resolution.

The role of guardrails in AI safety

However, no AI system is complete without proper measures for its safety. For projects like Mr. Nags which directly interacts with citizens, emphasizing guardrails cannot be overstated.  

When we talk about guardrails in the context of AI, we're referring to mechanisms that ensure AI systems operate within set boundaries, much like guardrails on a highway prevent vehicles from going off the road.

These guardrails are crucial in preventing harmful outputs that could range from minor inaccuracies to significant breaches of privacy or security.

The image you see outlines a comparison between AI applications without guardrails and those fortified with them. Without guardrails, an AI's output flows directly from the prompt to the output stage without any checks, which could result in outputs that are off-topic, contain personal identifiable information (PII), or even show attempts to "jailbreak" or trick the AI into unwanted behavior.

Now, let's look at the system with guardrails:

  • Input Guard: Before the AI processes the information, there's a checkpoint. This is where the input is screened for sensitive content, irrelevance, or signs of manipulation attempts.

  • In the case of Mr. Nags, this would mean:

    • Checking for PII to protect user privacy.

    • Ensuring the issue reported is relevant to the services provided by the local government.

    • Detecting any input that might be trying to exploit the AI in harmful ways.

  • Output Guard: Once the AI has processed the input and generated a response, it doesn't go straight to the user. Instead, it passes through another layer of review to screen for:

    • Hallucinations: AI-generated information that is not based on real data or facts.

    • Profanity: Ensuring the language used is appropriate and respectful.

    • Competitor mention: In the context of Mr. Nags, this would ensure the focus remains on addressing the civic issue rather than diverting to other topics.

With Mr. Nags, these guardrails are integrated into the system, allowing it to have safe and relevant conversations with users. It's designed to understand and categorize civic complaints efficiently, while filtering out irrelevant or unsafe content.

This ensures that when citizens use Mr. Nags to report issues, they can trust that their complaints are processed correctly and securely, respecting their privacy and focusing solely on resolving the problems they face.

How can AI solutions like Mr. Nags enhance civic engagement?

AI solutions like Mr. Nags are changing the civic landscape by making it significantly easier for everyone to play an active role in their community. Here's how:

  • Eliminating bureaucracy: No one enjoys paperwork. Mr. Nags understands this and removes the need for it. By replacing traditional forms with a simple conversation, the platform invites more people to participate, particularly those who may feel intimidated by the usual red tape.

  • Creating a friendly interface: Picture a government form that talks back to you. Mr. Nags is just that; a user-friendly chat interface that guides you through the complaint process as smoothly as a conversation with a friend.

  • Embracing diverse interactions: Whether you're texting a quick message or sharing a detailed voice note, Mr. Nags is equipped to handle it. This flexibility ensures that no matter how you communicate, you can engage with civic issues easily.

What efficiency does Mr. Nags bring to the civic complaint process?

Efficiency in the civic complaint process is not just about speed; it's about making every step count:

  • Streamlined reporting: Mr. Nags cuts through the clutter. Forget multiple forms and steps; with this AI, a complaint can be lodged with the same ease as ordering something online.

  • Smart understanding: Using the latest in natural language processing, Mr. Nags can grasp the essence of your complaint from a casual description and meticulously categorize it, ensuring it reaches the right department.

  • Precision categorization: The AI isn't just listening; it's understanding and acting. By classifying your complaint accurately, Mr. Nags sets the wheels of resolution in motion immediately.

How does Mr. Nags empower citizens to address local issues?

Mr. Nags serves as a powerful platform for citizens to voice their concerns about local issues effectively. When a citizen reports a problem, they receive an immediate confirmation from Mr. Nags, affirming that their message has been received and is being processed.

This prompt acknowledgment is crucial as it provides assurance that their input is valued and will be acted upon.

The platform is designed to be used on the move, enabling citizens to report issues using their smartphones from any location at any time. This accessibility ensures that reporting a civic problem is as easy and immediate as sending a text message, fostering a proactive approach to community issues.

Additionally, Mr. Nags is built to engage with users actively, not just passively receive their complaints. It's set up for back-and-forth communication, ensuring that submitting a complaint is the beginning of an interactive process.

This establishes a continuous dialogue between the citizen and their local government, making civic engagement a two-way conversation.

How you can get involved

Interested in shaping the future of AI, especially in ensuring it's a force for good in our society? Here's your opportunity to make a difference.

Volunteering for AI safety initiatives is more than a contribution –– it's a step towards responsible innovation.

  • Join AI safety workshops: Keep an eye out for workshops or webinars on AI safety. These sessions are a platform where your feedback can influence AI development.

  • Participate in community testing: Sign up to test AI applications like Mr. Nags. Your real-world use helps developers understand how AI operates in diverse scenarios, ensuring it serves everyone effectively.

  • Contribute to open-source AI projects: If you have a knack for coding, consider contributing to open-source AI safety projects. Your technical skills can help build more secure AI systems.

  • Advocate for responsible AI: Use your voice to promote the significance of AI safety. Awareness is key, and your conversations on social media, blogs, or community forums can drive the narrative towards ethical AI use.

Join the Community

People+ai is a non-profit, housed within the EkStep Foundation. Our work is designed around the belief that technology, especially ai, will cause paradigm shifts that can help India & its people reach their potential.

Join the Community

People+ai is a non-profit, housed within the EkStep Foundation. Our work is designed around the belief that technology, especially ai, will cause paradigm shifts that can help India & its people reach their potential.