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VIDEO: City of Kelowna first in the country to use an AI 'chatbot' to review development applications

Kelowna is among the fastest-growing cities in the country.

Now it's set to become the fastest at dealing with development permits when they come in.

The city's IT department is leading the way by harnessing artificial intelligence.

Jazz Pabla heads up Kelowna's effort to build an in-house chatbot to accelerate the sometimes sluggish process of getting plans reviewed and approved.

"For the last couple of years we've been working on a solution," said Pabla.

"To really take information that's in our zoning bylaws and other types of bylaws and make it just easier to read for developers and our homeowners."

It's the first program of its kind in Canada.

Initially, he sees the chatbot speeding up applications for things like swimming pools and carriage homes.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

"How can we give you that answer a little bit quicker, so you can actually start that process right away," said Pabla.

Exactly how much time it will save has yet to be seen, but he suggests it will be significant.

Very significant.

"Especially when you get to phase two and phase three, where we're looking at the AI system to actually look at the drawings that you submit, to give you feedback right away to say you're missing this or you're missing that. That sort of back and forth, if we can remove that, it does shave off months on an application."

And the applications for AI could go beyond development applications.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

"We do know there will be some mass efficiencies gained," not just in planning but in other government activities as well."

The final decision on any application will not be up to a computer program to decide.

"No, that's always going to be a human being," Pabla said. "A human being will always be looking at the application."

Unlike OpenAI or ChatGPT, the city's model will not be using the world wide web to update itself.

The only data it will use is 100% from kelowna.ca.

"We're training our AI based solely on that."

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

The work on Kelowna's chatbot was made possible thanks to a $430,000 provincial grant, so whatever is learned here will be shared with municipalities all over the province.

"And we'll share it with anybody across Canada," said Pabla. "Just to help with the whole housing dilemma that we're facing."

Pabla said he doesn't see this costing anyone their job.

"No, that's a common question we get about AI all the time," he said.

"We don't. There's so much work to do right now."



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