Voices from Accenture Public Service

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Connected home and personal devices, virtual assistants and mobile apps have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, making artificial intelligence (AI) one of the rising trends for 2018. While many of these interactions with AI are spearheaded by the private sector, I also believe it’s time for government agencies across the globe to look harder at what AI means for public service.

AI consists of multiple technologies that together enable machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn on their own or with minimal human intervention. When implemented holistically these technologies help improve productivity and lower costs, unlocking more creative jobs and creating new growth opportunities. Technology leaders who incorporate these new technologies into their agencies can transform the nature of public service and deliver innovative outcomes. AI can help tackle an agency’s backlog and better serve citizens by making every user interface both simple and smart.

I have found a growing interest in improving services for clients among my public service clients, and AI adds to that conversation by augmenting the digital experience. Demographic shifts are leading to increased expectations from citizens. Digital-natives such as millennials and Gen Z use digital tools in every aspect of their lives and are beginning to demand similar services from their government agencies. In fact, recent Accenture research found 55 percent of citizens in the U.S. are in favor of the government using AI to deliver new or improved services more efficiently.

Early uses of AI in public service took advantage of traditional process automation, i.e., filling out and processing applications, searching for documents and service request referrals. For government agencies facing austerity measures, this first wave of AI helps drive efficiency and meet growing budget and regulatory demands.

The second wave of AI-powered intelligent automation is capable of analyzing data, diagnosing a problem and suggesting a solution. Machine learning allows computer programs to capture vast amounts of data from multiple sources, analyze it and create new insights that benefit citizens, industries, and society at large.

In order to maximize the potential of AI in public service, I recommend government agencies consider these key questions:

  • Where can we find strategic value in AI?
  • How can we improve efficiency?
  • What are the services we are providing now and which ones are best suited to AI?
  • How can we optimize the workforce?
  • Which specific tasks will benefit the most from augmenting and automating with AI?
  • How can we help the workforce shift its focus to more important work?
  • How can AI help change the services we are offering now?
  • What new services can AI help us deliver?

It’s time for public service agencies to take a more proactive role in experimenting with AI and look for ways to serve citizens better. These new digital tools hold the potential for governments to offer not only improved services but also a better quality of life for all.

In my next post, I will share with you some of my favorite AI success stories and examples in public service.

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