Empowering Council employees with AI innovation at Maroondah City Council


Technology Area


The City of Maroondah is in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs, about 25km east of from the Melbourne CBD. With a population of about 115k residents, Maroondah City Council’s goal is to be good steward’s of Council’s resources and provide high quality services and facilities to residents.

Maroondah City Council’s (MCC) goal with this project was to empower employees to utilise Open AI technology. To do this they needed to ensure the setup took into account their strong governance regulations, accountability and security.

AI is a powerful set of tools, and there are a lot of innovators within council, but MCC’s duty to the public means they also need to balance innovation with accountability, security and governance. Their partnership with Arinco allowed them to leverage their existing business and technology expertise to rapidly deliver a solution that achieved their goals.

While significant opportunities to enhance productivity and efficiencies were identified, it also raised concerns from a risk, security and governance point of view. Security of MCC’s data was paramount, but because there was no clear understanding of how to adequately monitor and report the usage of the public Chat GPT, Council paused access to the public AI tools on corporate devices. MCC and Arinco kicked off a 90-day investigation into potential uses and configurations that would allow MCC to safely implement AI functionality.

D6’s role, as a sister company to Arinco, was to help tease out potential AI use cases, through workshops, that would help solve some of the issues that Maroondah City Council wanted to address. A lot of great ideas came out of those sessions, and D6 prioritised a roadmap and chose the best two use cases for the pilot. Whilst development was under way, D6 also prepared change management considerations for Maroondah to help them with the roadmap ahead.

The solutions:

Maroondah City Council Enterprise Chat:

In partnership with Arinco, Maroondah City Council developed the ‘Maroondah City Council Chatbot’ application. This ChatBOT leveraged a “question and answer” style powered by the GPT 3.5 large language model (LLM). It offered a private and secure environment for Maroondah employees to seek information, answers, and suggestions, with a crucial feature being that it did not utilise prompts and information to train the AI model.

Document Summarisation:

The second use case that was prioritised was a document summarisation feature. Employees often handle large documents such as contracts, which can sometimes be 10-20 pages long. By way of example, there are insurance documents which have only minor, but important differences between versions. The ChatBOT feature summarises documents and compares summaries, identifying differences quickly and saving time.

Leveraging existing Microsoft 365 licenses and SharePoint as a secure document storage location, Arinco developed a trigger in which documents uploaded were processed using Azure Open AI and Azure Forms Recogniser to extract text and output a summary paragraph. The metadata was then only accessible to existing authorised users.

For those extra-large documents over 20-pages, a work-around was built given the token limitations of GPT3.5. The solution was to summarise individual pages and then condense into a coherent summary – in a matter of minutes!  

The outcomes:

Within approximately 90 days, Arinco and MCC were able to deliver Maroondah City Council ChatGPT, a private instance of Chat GPT. It allowed users to access the chat interface they had come to value from the public GPT, while at the same time, MCC could implement robust monitoring, tracking and reporting capabilities.

This ensured they were compliant with our regulatory and security obligations, while giving users more freedom to experiment – like asking GPT to edit code or read Council templates without being concerned the data would leave their systems.

Because the tool has been built within Council’s Azure environment, they are well positioned to further integrate it with their data in the future, allowing for use cases more closely tailored to Council’s business.

One notable benefit was the cost-effectiveness of the solution. Operating on a pay-as-you-go model allowed Maroondah to keep costs to a minimum, ensuring that Maroondah could leverage advanced AI capabilities within budget. These two AI solutions not only streamlined day-to-day operations but also paved the way for continued AI innovation within the organisation, fostering a culture of adoption and acceptance among staff.

Future innovation and aspirations

In the short-term Maroondah City Council’s focus is to build a powerful community of practice, ensuring users are familiar with AI tools and know how to use them effectively and responsibly.

In the medium term they are looking to investigate cases where AI tools can be best used in day-to-day work to provide measurable process efficiencies. This could be training and onboarding staff, reviewing, and crafting documents, and assisting with customer service feedback.

As far as longer term? AI is still an emerging technology, but Maroondah City Council see an increasing demand on local governments to provide quality services, faster, cheaper and at a higher volume than ever before. Their goal is to use AI technologies to help work through the tasks its best suited for and free up valuable time for employees to work on creative and complex tasks.

Get started on your AI transformation journey, check out Arinco’s OpenAI Done RightTM offering > 

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