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Colorado Springs Chatbot Is Powered by AI, City Data

AskCOS, the city of Colorado Springs’ new artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot, was trained using Colorado city government information alone. The virtual assistant can answer constituent questions in 71 languages.

The city of Colorado Springs this week joins a growing list of cities tapping artificial intelligence (AI) technology to power a chatbot that can answer residents’ questions.

Not only are government agencies increasingly using chatbots, but some experts argue that they are actually a necessity — provided that they are trained on quality data.

For Colorado Springs, the city's chatbot goes by the name of AskCOS, and it is trained on data directly from the source: the city’s official website. The chatbot, announced Monday, does not use outside websites to formulate responses to questions.

The tool is powered by Citibot, a company that provides civic tech tools, but was designed with support from city staff, Colorado Springs Public Communications Manager Julie Smith said via email.

The city worked with the vendor, Smith said, to program specific responses for common issues like pothole reporting — and to customize the chatbot’s greeting and branding. Other than those customizations, responses from the chatbot are generated by AI using the city’s website. Notably, AskCOS can respond to users in 71 languages; users can access this feature just by asking a question in their preferred language.
A screenshot displays dialogue as Colorado Springs' chatbot, AskCOS, responds to a user's question with information about when city council meetings are held.
Screenshot of AskCOS chatbot responding to a user's question.
The chatbot can answer questions on topics ranging from finding parks that are wheelchair accessible to finding out when and where City Council meetings are held. If AskCOS does not have the answer, it may direct users to the city’s service request form.

Smith explained that the city will monitor the tool on an ongoing basis, looking at the questions and responses both for quality control and to better understand the information website visitors seek.

“We will use the data to enhance our website content and other resident engagement,” she said.

Visitors to the city’s website will find AskCOS at the bottom right corner of every page, both in mobile and desktop view; individuals can also text “Hello” to 888-814-6267 to reach the chatbot.

Because the chatbot’s responses are limited to information available on the city’s website, officials encourage those who do not receive an answer that satisfies their needs to call the city directly for further assistance.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.