Queenslanders will now be able to access important information any time of the day or night to help them resolve neighbourhood disputes using innovative ‘chatbots’.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the two chatbots – online software that can simulate a conversation with users – were developed with busy people in mind.
“The chatbots, named MANDI and SANDI, are an illustration of what can be done when technology and legal services meet,” she said.
“The online helpers will assist people find timely and accurate information about noise, tree and fence disputes.”
Mrs D’Ath said the chatbots, named MANDI and SANDI, would allow people to access the important services at times convenient to them, rather than being limited to standard business hours.
“Many people work 9am to 5pm, so accessing assistance is not an easy task,” she said.
The chatbot idea came from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) and a similar idea was presented at the Department of Justice and Attorney-General’s inaugural ‘Hackcess to Justice’ hackathon in May — a 48-hour innovation design thinking event that involved students, young professionals and experts working together to solve a problem.
The winning team comprised engineering students Sophia Hooton and Roy Portas from the University of Queensland, and law students Kimia Zarei and Joanne Marie de Jesus from the Queensland University of Technology, who worked with the Department’s digital transformation team to produce their chatbot.
Ms Zarei said she was looking forward to seeing how the community would react to their chatbot.
“Our idea helps to alleviate the ‘gap’ experienced by the disadvantaged community in disputes by giving the power back to individuals,” Ms Zarei said
Mrs D’Ath congratulated the students for coming up with such a unique approach.
“Appropriate and fair access to justice is paramount for all Queenslanders,” Mrs D’Ath said.
“Having these four young people come up with such a brilliant solution that harnesses technology that is accessible to all shows keen insight and innovation.”
Mrs D’Ath said the two chatbots were quite different in their approach.
“MANDI is designed to walk people through a guided conversation,” she said.
“The user selects options from a predetermined list and the chatbot directs them to accurate information to help them resolve a wide range of neighbourhood disputes in a safe and fair manner.
“While SANDI is a conversational chatbot for QCAT, designed to give people information about processes to resolve their tree and fence disputes.
“SANDI allows you to enter questions in your own words and it will provide plain English information and links to relevant QCAT webpages and forms.”