At a Dec. 6 meeting, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to approve a contract that will add translation features and pilot a bilingual “virtual agent” to help visitors navigate the site.
“This is something that I believe provides Dallas County with another tool to serve our taxpayers and our customers in a more efficient way, particularly ones that speak other languages,” said Dr. Elba Garcia, District 4 Dallas County commissioner, at the meeting.
Through the agreement, the county will use an estimated $378,000 in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to contract Virginia-based IT solutions provider Carahsoft Technology Corp. to help engage with Google for the implementation of the new features. According to court briefing documents, the translation feature will translate county documents into Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages without having to reformat the documents, while the virtual agent will provide instant messaging-like support in English and Spanish, answering common questions and helping navigate departments.
“For constituents that historically called Dallas County for assistance or visited our departments in person, this new method of communication offers important features that can reduce frustrations,” the briefing documentation states. “In addition, the agent can be a shortcut or alternative to navigating thousands of phone numbers, documents and hundreds of email addresses and buildings spread over cities throughout the county.”
The project is expected to take 12 weeks, with an estimated start date on work beginning Dec. 12, per a statement of work from Carahsoft. If the pilot of the project is successful, county officials said the intent is to partner with Google on additional phases to provide more languages and functionality.
The goal of the effort is to make the county’s website more accessible and navigable, in addition to making it easier for residents and companies to conduct business with the county. According to local translation firm Akorbi, the most common foreign language spoken in the Dallas-Fort Worth region is Spanish, followed by Vietnamese, various Chinese dialects, a collection of African languages and Hindi. Dallas County said the new services have the potential to impact more than 500,000 county residents.
“Excellent service delivery is a moving target that will change over time as our county changes, and this is an important step in realigning our service delivery to match those we serve,” the briefing documentation states.