CEFAT 4 Cities by BECI, the Brussels Chamber of Commerce

Imagine this….

You are living in the EU and you want to setup a company in Brussels and come to live with your family in this beautiful region. Just start up the search engines… It is not so difficult to find information about the formalities you have to accomplish or how you can register yourself and your family in a Brussels municipality. But are you sure you found all the info you need, did you formulate the good questions? You need to search in different websites and address yourself to different administrations… in a language you don’t even understand? And you have to come to Brussels in order to fill in different forms, sign them, submit them … and then wait.

But imagine this: a single digital point of contact which guides you step by step (wherever you are) in setting up your own company and moving to Brussels… in a chronological, intuitive way, based on your needs and in your own language? And all formalities accomplished in a digital way in 48H?

This simply does not exist! 

Let’s be real …if a lot of progress is made in making Cities more smart we still are a long way from a real smart approach of accompanying foreign (or even Belgian) “to be” entrepreneurs” and their families in what could be the adventure of their lives.

And then we were asked to participate in the CEFAT 4 Cities project aiming to make the public services of cities more smart, more digital and… multilingual.  Because that is what’s the project all about : extract knowledge from public services websites and transform it in a way that other applications (not only Google) can use it. Add some context, some logic and multilinguism and … here we are!

Why did we as the Brussels Chamber of Commerce involve ourselves in this quite tech project? 

The answer is as simple as evident: it simply fits our mission! One of the main priorities of our Chamber of Commerce is to simplify the life of entrepreneurs and to support viable start-ups as they contribute to the economic and social development of our Region. As Brussels is a highly multicultural and multilingual city, its entrepreneurs are as well of many different backgrounds. Thus, transmitting a clear and understandable information is a high challenge entrepreneurs are confronted with on a daily basis. 

Setting up a company is a complex undertaking, both on a legal and administrative level, which requires to be informed about the opportunities, obligations and risks such an undertaking implies.

Our goal is to facilitate acces to the (would be) entrepreneur to practical information regarding the setting up of a company or the daily management issues of a business. In that perspective, the context within which the information is obtained needs to be highlighted.

As for Brussels Smart City : It enhances the digital acces to public services in the Brussels region. The public services in Brussels are indeed also starting to appreciate the importance of data, as reflected for example, in the implementation of the ‘open data’ policy and of the ‘only once’ principle.

So how did we proceed?

A good identification of your goals, of what you want is key : what are your priorities, your objectives and how do you structure your project in order to achieve these?

Keep in mind the saying that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail…

Try also to define the bigger picture : where will your data come from, what are the links you need to activate, what are the investments you are prepared to do (team and financial wise)

I a shortcut: make your business plan and do not hesitate to hire some external consultancy.

We organized a brainstorm and created our own mindmap which resulted in a “decision tree”. We attached the branches and leaf’s to this tree in the form of themes and related data and asked our partner Crosslang to structure, enrich and scrap the relevant public websites we found. 

As a result and after some back & forths (evaluation of the quality of the structured scraped data) we finally got to the creation of our very own chatbot demonstrator. This is only a proof of concept but sufficient to show the possibilities to different municipalities and to stimulate their interest for the project. 

And in the given context, we asked Crosslang to add Ukrainian as a possible language…