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Q&A on DFAT reports, powered by AI

I don't like scrolling through documents

And even less scrolling through a collection of documents. Yet this is what we're left with when searching for answers through a range of reports. Eventually though, after frantic scrolling and searching for keywords, we find the official text that we believe we can trust.

At the other end of the spectrum, ChatGPT gives quick responses through a friendly interface, but it sometimes makes up facts, and its data is almost two years old.

Can't we have a middle-ground? Keep the friendly Q&A format, but use only trusted reports as sources?

Compiling the data

For this exercise, I'm using all reports from DFAT (Australian Dept of Foreign Affairs) since 2020 as data source - together around 350 documents in PDF format.

We compile our database of sources by:

  1. Scraping PDF documents from
  2. Extracting their text through the Python unstructured library
  3. Splitting each PDF into chunks of 1,000 characters. From 350 PDF documents, we end up with ~40,000 chunks total.
  4. Creating a vector embedding for each chunk
  5. Store each chunk and its embedding in a vector database using faiss.

Responding to questions

Given a question, we attempt to produce an answer backed by sources by:

  1. Producing an embedding for the question
  2. Retrieving the 5 document chunks whose embedding is closest to the question.
  3. Passing both the question and the top 5 chunks to ChatGPT through the API, and ask nicely to produce an answer.

We're left with a system that works relatively well when the answer can be sourced from specific chunks. For broad questions that would require a lot of reading to get a response, the setup works a lot less well, because we're always limited to 5 chunks.


The above setup is deployed to an API (learned myself some fastAPI for the occasion), and connected to a React frontend deployed through Vercel.

And voilà:


If you have comments, or ideas about where a similar setup would be useful, reach out!