|By Judith Lamont
Government agencies are
meeting the needs of their customers, both within and outside of the
organization, with expert systems and user-friendly electronic forms,
innovative CRM applications and a host of other applications. The
technologies improve efficiency for government organizations, as well
as for citizens, whether they are federal users such as those described
in this article, or state agencies like the Salt River Project.
One federal agency, for
instance, is using expert systems to demystify forms. Ever since 9/11,
employer compliance with regulations regarding foreign nationals in the
United States has received closer scrutiny. To help small businesses
comply with regulations from the Bureau of Customs and Immigration
Services BCIS( formerly INS), the Small Business Administration SBA is providing online expert systems that assist in filling out application forms.
The I-9 Employment
Eligibility Verification form, for example, is completed and kept on
file by employers to show that workers have the proper documentation.
The expert systems provided by SBA explain detailed instructions,
validate data and make determinations of status in complex cases. BCIS
provided the domain expertise that is embedded in the system. The SBA
selected Exsys to supply the tools (Exsys CORVID) and knowledge engineering to build the system and several others for the BCIS on the SBA’s Business Law site.
“The underlying logic
of the form is relatively straightforward,” says Dustin Huntingon,
Exsys president, “but there are many details that need to be
addressed.” For example, the employer must indicate whether the worker
is an employee or a contractor. The BCIS definition of an employee
differs from that used by the Internal Revenue Service IRS, and also from that used by OSHA (Occupation Safety & Health Administration).
are probabilistic and cannot easily be presented in HTML. The
complexity of the rules makes an expert system a better solution,” adds
Huntington. In addition, if some of the parameters of the rules change,
they can easily be changed in the expert system, whereas if HTML were
used, many pages would have to be recoded.
application for SBA helps determine which visa category is appropriate
for foreign workers. Correct classification is important for a variety
of reasons, including the fact that the category cannot be changed once
the prospective worker arrives in the United States. If the
classification is incorrect, the individual would have to return to his
or her native land in order to make a change. After all the questions
in the system are answered, the user is presented with a matrix on a
dynamically generated HTML page that shows all the appropriate visa
category options for that individual. Sometimes more than one category
could apply; if the quota for one is filled, the applicant can proceed
The complexity of
government regulations provides fertile ground for realizing the
benefits that expert systems can provide. Expert systems are proving to
be a positive next step in increasing the government's ability to
interact with citizens and deliver the knowledge that the public needs.
availability of many online resources,” says Huntington, “there is just
too much information, and the regulations are often written in a way
that makes them difficult to understand." Online expert systems
interact through the Web to help people interpret and comply with
regulations based on their specific situations, without having to sift
through or understand lengthy documents. Expert systems can also assist
in navigating through complex government Web sites.
Link in a wink
Expert systems can help people sort through Web sites in order to access relevant pages. Exsys has developed a technique, called WINK (What I Need to Know), of using the technology to produce customized Web pages for individual visitors.
Site visitors click on
an icon on the home page and an expert system smart questionnaire takes
them through what is equivalent to a “consultation” with a content
expert. They are then presented with a dynamically built Web page of
applicable content or links based on that visitor’s interests.
The advantage of an
expert system approach over other personalization techniques is the
ability to handle far more complex logic in a practical and
maintainable way. Expert systems also handle probabilistic situations,
and adapt quickly and easily as content changes.
Judith Lamont is a research analyst with Zentek Corp., e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.