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Williamsburg rolls out text messaging program

jojacobs@vagazette.com

If there’s a pothole in the neighborhood, who are you going to text?

Citibot.

That’s the idea behind Williamsburg’s newest means of communicating with residents. Citibot, an interactive text messaging customer service software, provides a new means to arrange municipal services and locate information, said city information technology director Mark Barham.

Citibot doesn’t replace existing means of communication residents use to communicate with the city. Rather it opens up communications for residents who may be more interested in dashing off a text message rather than composing an email or making a phone call, Barham said.

“This is just another way for engagement,” Barham said.

Need to schedule a bulk trash pick-up? Text Citibot. Wondering when the next City Council meeting is? Text Citibot and it’ll direct you to the appropriate information on the city website.

The city is now a couple weeks into a 6-month pilot program, which cost $2,200 to set up, Barham said.

“We’re ecstatic that Williamsburg has decided to adopt the technology and bring a new form of communication and accessibility to its city,” Co-founder and CEO of Citibot LLC Bratton Riley said in a city news release.

Citibot LLC is a Charleston, South Carolina-based tech startup founded in 2016.

While the program utilizes text messaging now, Citibot could be made accessible by other means in the coming years, Barham said.

“It establishes a scale-able artificial intelligence platform,” he said.

Citibot could be installed as an application for other artificially intelligent personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. Such an arrangement could allow a resident to ask Alexa to pass a message along to city employees about a missed trash pickup, Barham said.

To start a conversation with Citibot, text “hello” to 757-243-1175.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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