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Applied intelligence is a concept that is taking off all over the world. This notion was apparent at the recent Paris Digital Week that I attended in November. For instance, as part of this week, the GovTech Summit explored the future of digital government. It was clear to me that government is eager to harness the immense power of new technology to transform the way it serves citizens. Other industries are using the combined power of automation, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to work smarter, save money, serve customers better and fundamentally change the way they do business. It’s time for government to follow this important lead.
Do more with data
Government agencies are at a tremendous advantage for using AI in that they manage a uniquely large amount of data covering citizens and businesses. Data is captured on each individual from the time they are born—through marriage, employment, home buying and health challenges—to the time they die.
However, agencies are not maximising the power of this data. For instance, citizens often have to enter data about themselves every time they interact with a government organisation. They repeat the task of data entry and government staff repeat the task of data processing. Citizens are open to it. Accenture’s recent multi-country survey revealed differences between citizens who work in the public sector and other citizens regarding their views on AI and government. Public-sector respondents were more likely than other respondents to say they are willing to use AI services delivered by government (63 percent vs. 51 percent) and more likely to say they are confident or very confident that government would use AI in an ethical and responsible manner (46 percent vs. 31 percent).
The benefits are apparent. AI is like a massive engine that takes in the data and gets smarter as it learns. Applied intelligence analyses this world of data up front, and that can transform government/citizen interactions.
Imagine the possibilities. Rather than a single parent hunting down the services available to them and their new baby, the system would proactively reach out to them (based on the life event of childbirth) and inform them of the social services and welfare programs for which they are eligible.
AI can also understand the ways in which citizens want to be connected. The system might initiate a mailing to a senior citizen who may want to participate in a new program that will enable them to manage their chronic health condition.
Self-learning AI can also improve the speed and quality of outcomes for government and agencies. For instance, the West Midlands Police (WMP) force in England is using applied intelligence to capture data about crime and predict future outcomes, trends and patterns that are essential to preventative policing that protects the public. Using AI, WMP is also freeing up police time, saving costs and dramatically improving efficiency.
Investing is the first step
Forward-thinking governments are interested in the power of applied intelligence, however, few are properly investing.
France is putting a stake in the ground with its plan to bolster AI specifically across defense, health, transport and environmental sectors. The country plans to invest €1.5 billion (£1.35 billion) in AI research and development between now and 2022.1
In some ways, AI can pay for itself because of the power of human + machine. A large amount of transactional work in government can be automated to yield tremendous cost savings. For instance, all of the transactional tasks done in tax agencies. Accenture is working with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in Ireland to pilot AI to provide tax services to citizens via a virtual assistant. Here the AI tools would help to answer general queries.2
To fully harness the power of man and machine, government must also invest in attracting and retaining the right skills to manage AI solutions. Governments can choose to find and hire the right talent themselves or collaborate with startups that can bring robust AI capabilities.
AI is still new and, in many ways, intimidating. However, AI is the future and it can improve citizen experiences and lead to better outcomes for government and the people it serves. If your agency is not ready to leap into AI, it can begin by thinking about that first step.
1FRANCE 24, “France to invest €1.5 billion in artificial intelligence by 2022,” March 29, 2018, https://www.france24.com/en/20180329-france-invest-15-billion-euros-artificial-intelligence-AI-technology-2022
2Karl Flinders, Computer Weekly, “Irish tax office testing out artificial intelligence for customer services,” September 10, 2018, https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252448379/Irish-tax-office-testing-out-artificial-intelligence-for-customer-services