Civil servants to soon use ChatGPT to help with research, speech writing

ChatGPT is seen by many as the gold standard among AI bots today, due to its availability to the masses and ability to converse naturally. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE – Civil servants will soon be able to tap the power of artificial intelligence (AI) tool ChatGPT to conduct research and draft reports and speeches from their existing work productivity tools.

A hackathon team from Open Government Products (OGP) has spent a month integrating research firm OpenAI’s ChatGPT into Microsoft Word, the go-to writing platform for most public officers.

The team, called Pair, plan for up to 90,000 civil servants to be able to use the AI service, adding that it will be rolled out progressively across agencies, starting with the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), said Pair team member Moses Soh.

The project has also struck an agreement with Azure OpenAI to ensure that data handled by the Government is kept confidential and out of sight to Microsoft and OpenAI. Microsoft runs the cloud-based Azure platform, which hosts OpenAI as part of its investment in the San Francisco-based AI research firm that found fame with the rise of ChatGPT,  or Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer.

Pair was one of the highlight groups at the annual OGP hackathon, Hack for Public Good, which held its finale last Thursday. The month-long event allows OGP staff to set aside non-essential duties to work on new tech ideas based on issues surfaced by the public.

OGP is an experimental development arm of the Government that builds technology for the public.

Mr Soh, 29, who is a senior project manager at OGP, said the software aims to ease the load on civil servants when they write and do research. “We want to free officers up for higher-level tasks. This bot can help them get over that tough first draft, or speed up their work by creating sample e-mails or even speeches,” he added.

As seen in a demo session by the Pair team on Thursday, the chatbot is able to summarise long chunks of information and draft reports on policy-related topics within seconds. It can also recognise and instantly redact sensitive information to ensure it is not exposed.

Mr Soh estimated that an early version of the Pair programme built into Microsoft Word will be rolled out across some of the civil service within two months. A subsequent version will be able to access and analyse information from official databases, but this is still in the works, with no launch date planned, he added.

Pair’s project rides on a keen interest in AI bots, especially since the rise of ChatGPT from late 2022. ChatGPT is seen by many as the gold standard among AI bots today, due to its availability to the masses and ability to converse naturally and even craft essays.

Most recently, Microsoft announced its next-generation search engine – a revamped version of Bing – which incorporates OpenAI’s chatbot. As part of Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service, the chatbot software is available to enterprises, allowing them to integrate the AI into new apps.

Microsoft also offers some customers in highly regulated industries the option to prevent the Azure OpenAI Service from ever seeing the data processed, to protect sensitive data.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the event Hack for Public Good as Hackathon for Public Good. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.

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