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Estonia partners with Microsoft in developing the virtual assistant Bürokratt

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The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Information System Authority (RIA) partnered with the international R&D team of Microsoft and Net Group to pilot a new open-source development model for the virtual assistant Bürokratt.

In the spring of 2022, a new methodology was introduced in the development of the virtual assistant Bürokratt: the entire development process would be public, from the planning of the work and the daily code delivery to the publication of the results.

”The purpose of the open-source development was to avoid internal work planning, code repositories, delivery, and other processes that are hidden from the public by default in conventional software development. Bürokratt is developed openly because development partners who are scattered all over the world must be in the same information field at all times. The same applies to the clients of Bürokratt,” explained Rainer Türner, the architect of Bürokratt at RIA.

”The first collaborative project was the development of a prototype of DMR (Distributed Message Rooms). This is the prototype of the first central software component of the virtual assistant of the Estonian state. This component enables communication between the clients of Bürokratt and knows who can communicate with whom and under what conditions. With this test development, we gained important knowledge on how to develop Bürokratt further,” said Kaupo Laagriküll, Head of the Machine Learning and Language Technology Department at RIA.

Laagriküll added that four months after the end of the pilot project, 20 projects have already been published on the GitHub account of Bürokratt. ”These include drafts, planned procurements, and developments that are already in the works on a daily basis. We invite everyone interested in open-source development to follow the GitHub account of Bürokratt, use our software, participate in discussions, and contribute as a partner.”

According to the head of the department, open-source development has many advantages, and a constant exchange of information helps the parties create better solutions. ‘We were satisfied with this development. We want to increase cooperation in the field of open-source development, and it will become clear how exactly we will do this in the near future.”

According to Ott Velsberg, Chief Data Officer at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the cooperation project with Microsoft is a good example of how the transition to cloud solutions helps support public services’ development and improve user experience. ‘This project showed that cloud solutions offered by the private sector play an important role in the Estonian cloud policy, enabling activities to be carried out significantly more efficiently,’ said Velsberg.

“The level of digitalisation we have reached in the 21st century entails opportunities for us: to rethink business and the processes of the public sector while taking into account the capabilities of technology. If a business or an administrative process or organisation can be more efficient, faster, or even more knowledgeable through technology, why not change it? We are pleased to be part of such a project of the Government of Estonia that makes citizens´ lives easier – it completely changes how people interact with the government and use public services,” said Evangelos Chrysafidis, Industry Lead at Microsoft.

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