AWS Public Sector Blog

Swindon Borough Council makes vital public information more accessible using Amazon Bedrock

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Emerging technologies such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) streamline business processes and allow providers of public services to connect with citizens in new and intuitive ways. For example, local councils can draw on cloud-based AI tools to make content more understandable.

This is something we’re focused on at Swindon Borough Council, a local authority in England. We have an opportunity to connect in new ways with residents who have additional needs such as low literacy levels, cognitive impairment, or learning difficulties.

The importance of inclusion

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK and globally, it is estimated that 15 percent of the population have some form of learning disability. Public-service providers are expected to supply accessible, easy-to-understand information to the public so they can make informed decisions about their lives and for their households. Not all citizens have the same ability to identify and digest the information that’s important to them, so councils have to invest in alternative versions of documents in a format known as Easy Read.

It can typically cost £120 ($150) to adapt content manually for a single page with just five lines and five images. An average document of five pages would take two weeks to adapt, and cost £500 ($750). This is unsustainable in terms of the demand on council resources. Most importantly, people could miss a significant change to a local provision or the need to attend an appointment.

Our Easy Read solution presents simplified text on the right side of a page and images on the left—all summarizing the most important, relevant information. This results in documents that are more accessible for people who might otherwise feel isolated and reliant on others to discover what’s happening in their community.

The AI-based facilitator

Generative AI excels in making content more accessible for everyone, thanks to its ability to summarize and simplify information, and turn it into forms such as images. Amazon Bedrock is a fully managed service that provides one of the simplest ways for development teams to build and scale generative AI applications with security, privacy, and responsible AI. Using Amazon Bedrock, you can easily experiment with and evaluate high-performing foundation models (FMs) from leading AI companies via a single API. These FMs be adapted for your particular use case. Amazon Bedrock is serverless and intuitive to use, so it’s simple and affordable for local councils to experiment with. We are also confident that data is secure.

We tested the technology on a complex tenancy agreement more than 50 pages long. We experimented with the tools and within just a few days sent samples of adapted content back to Adult Social Care. They liked the results so we moved into a deeper engineering phase.

A positive difference for communities

We also saw an opportunity to combine the technology with our existing Translate solution, making content available in 75 languages and reaching people for whom English is a second language.

At Swindon, we’re keen to improve services informed by the people who use them. We employed Experts by Experience of a Learning Disability, a group whose members have a wide range of learning disabilities. Tom, Dan, Charlotte, Kelly, Tammy, Elroy, and David provided important insights into their experiences and how we can all work together to break down barriers. This was as important to us as the technology collaboration. For example, it’s how we learned that images are important, text size needs to be bigger than usual, the space between any text needs to be wider, and jargon and ambiguous terms must be avoided.

We now have a solution and we’re excited about its potential for positive social impact. Once launched, it’ll help overcome barriers and improve people’s lives.

Also, as a council with budget pressures, there’s significant financial gain. We can now create an accessible multi-page document for 7-10 pence per page (9-13₡).

Share the benefits

Cloud-based technology has enabled this service innovation. The cloud is a place where we can experiment and explore fast, securely, and at low cost. And our teams don’t need to know Python or have a PhD in AI. We can simply focus on realizing our ideas for new service improvements.

We’re keen to share our experiences so other councils and public services can build on what we’ve learned and extend similar benefits to their own citizens. That’s something I’m passionate about. For this reason, we plan to make our tool open source—in other words, available for others to use, licence-free. We’ll also release the prompts and parameters we’ve curated, so that others in the public sector and third sector can customise them rather than starting from scratch. These solutions have the potential to help so many other councils, across social care, in health, and in the non-profit sector.

Learn more about Swindon Borough Council’s use of AWS

Visit the AWS Institute homepage to learn about digital transformation leaders in governments and other public organizations around the world and how they’re reforming and modernizing public services using the cloud.