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SIMplifying the interaction with Public Administration Through Information technology for Citizens and cOmpanies

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SIMPATICO (SIMplifying the interaction with Public Administration Through Information technology for Citizens and cOmpanies)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2019-02-28

SIMPATICO's goal is to improve the experience of citizens and companies in their daily interactions with the public administration (PA) by providing a personalized delivery of e-services based on advanced cognitive system technologies and by promoting an active engagement of people for the continuous improvement of the interaction with these services. The SIMPATICO approach is realized through a platform that can be deployed on top of an existing PA system and allows for a personalized service delivery without having to change or replace its internal systems: a process often too expensive for a PA, especially considering the cuts in resources imposed by the current economic situation.

The goal of SIMPATICO is accomplished through a solution based on the interplay of language processing, machine learning and the “wisdom of the crowd” (represented by citizens, business organizations and civil servants) to change for the better the way citizens interact with the PA. Thanks to these advanced techniques, SIMPATICO can adapt the interaction process to the characteristics of each user; simplify text and documents to make them understandable; enable feedback for the users on problems and difficulties in the interaction; engage civil servants, citizens and professionals so as to make use of their knowledge and integrate it in the system.

In order to evaluate and validate the proposed solution, SIMPATICO run in three pilots, engaging citizens and civil servants of the three PAs in the Consortium: the city of Trento (Italy), the region of Galicia (Spain), and the city of Sheffield (UK).
The work plan of SIMPATICO has interleaved different kinds of activities:
• research and development activities, aiming at delivering tools and techniques to improve and simplify the interaction of citizens with e-services;
• system integration activities, aiming at assembling and deploying the SIMPATICO Platform, the open software platform that integrates the developed techniques and enacts them on top of the existing PA systems for on-line service delivery;
• validation activities, aiming at evaluating effectiveness and impact of the proposed approach in the three project pilots.
All these activities have produced important achievements, which have both been exploited during the project execution and created the basis for further developments and adoptions beyond the end of the project.
In particular, we can list the following main accomplishment of the project:
• In-production environment. In Trento SIMPATICO is integrated with the city e-service portal and in a production setting. It is (and will) being used after project end by citizen in a free and un-constrained way. More than 400 people used SIMPATICO saving 57% of time in completing a form and reducing the number of requests for clarification by up to 70%. These number are fast increasing as SIMPATICO is constantly growing alongside the growth of Trento’s e-service system.
• Citizen engagement and co-creation. The co-creation approach adopted in SIMPATICO produced a clear and tangible added value. This was particularly true in the Galicia pilot, where co-creation brought the team to develop a component (the eService Manager) that was not foreseen at all in the workplan and resulted to be one of the most appreciated components by civil servants.
• Scientific excellence. The project addressed advanced topics in Natural Language Processing and Computational Linguistic producing important research results published on 19 scientific papers, 14 Datasets and language corpora, all openly available in a public repository.
• SIMPATICO Platform. SIMPATICO produced mature technologies (TRL 6) that can be applied on top on any IT legacy system of a PA, as the Trento case confirmed. The open paradigm adopted during the development of SIMPATICO assure that there are no technical barriers to instance the system in a given technical environment.
Dissemination activities have concentrated on the definition and execution of a dissemination strategy aimed at maximizing the outreach of project outcomes and the engagement of all actors necessary for a successful project execution. Specific targets have been the scientific community, the broader audience of experts on public services and Artificial Intelligence, and the society (paying attention in particular to the local / national press and media agencies).
Finally SIMPATICO has performed dedicated activities to ensure sustainability and exploitation of project results. As results of these activities, SIMPATICO outcomes have already been adopted in 2 follow-up R&D projects (EIT-Digital projects BRIDGE and CaPe), involving both SIMPATICO research partners and SIMPATICO business partners. Also, SIMPATICO outcomes have been exploited in one initiative aiming at their replication and adoption by PAs: project SPRINT aiming at the integration of SIMPATICO results in existing Italian e-service delivery platform and at its reusage by Italian municipalities.
Many of the solutions developed by SIMPATICO progress the state of the art in their respective sectors: In particular, SIMPATICO has researched and developed human language techniques to simplify the text of on-line documents and help messages associated to on-line forms, so that complex terms and sentences are annotated with explanations, or are simplified with easier paraphrases. This is the most advanced research topic addressed by the project, as shown by the high number of scientific publications.

For what concerns the innovation potentials of SIMPATICO and its social and economic impacts, we can affirm that SIMPATICO pilots have demonstrated positive impact in the facilitation of the digital interaction between PAs, citizens and businesses, based on high-quality public services, and on the reduction of administrative burden. Recent studies have shown that the impacts of digital transformation in the PA sector are not limited to the reduced administrative burden, but positively impact also GDP growth and social development among European countries.
As for the social impact, SIMPATICO has put in place specific actions to include vulnerable groups as specific targets of the project. This has been successfully performed in the case of elderlies and of persons with disabilities: the Galicia pilot has demonstrated non only that SIMPATICO technology is ready to be used by elderly users, but also that (associations of) elderly citizens have the potential to play an important active role for improving the quality of e-services. The Galica pilot has also involved citizens with physical (mostly mobility, dexterity and visual) and with psychical and cognitive disabilities, demonstrating the effectiveness of the approach also for these vulnerable groups. The inclusion of foreigners and migrants has been achieved both in the Trento and in the Sheffield pilots and is the focus of follow-up actions that reuse SIMPATICO’s results: EIT Digital project BRIDGE aims at adopting text analysis and simplification as a tool to promote migrants’ integration.