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KMWorld Magazine
KMWorld Volume 12, Issue 6
Innovative applications make government more responsive
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).

“These determinations 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.

Another Exsys 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 under another.

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.

“Despite the 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

KMWorld Volume 12, Issue 6 Creating and Managing the Knowledge-Based Enterprise