The tools available to support new ways to deliver public services have never been more powerful or accessible. From AI to blockchain and advanced data analytics to biometrics, rapid advances in digital technologies are empowering entirely new outcomes for human services agencies. Attitudes are changing just as fast as the technology. For example, even just a few years ago AI was seen as a threat to jobs, that would significantly disrupt the labour market. Fast forward to today, and AI is seen as a vital co-worker that can relieve humans of mundane and repetitive tasks and enable them to focus on more value-adding and rewarding work.
Given the power of new technology to effect real change, it’s little wonder that innovation leaders are avidly making a ‘pivot to the future’. 60% of them say they’re experimenting with innovative technologies by investing in and implementing user research and testing of prototypes. Equally important, though, are the changes that leaders make to their operating models and their workforce to make themselves ready to adopt new tools. Today we see new technologies empowering human services workers in entirely new ways. For example, Accenture has developed an extended reality solution called Accenture Virtual Experience Solution (AVEnueS) that helps child welfare case workers learn and increase their data-gathering and decision-making skills in preparation for working in very challenging and distressing situations.
Innovation Leaders’ strategies share some common characteristics as they move to a digitally-enabled future.
Harnessing the power of data- and insight
Human services agencies hold an invaluable cache of citizen data. To make the most of it, they need to make sure that the data is both usable and used. Agency leaders need to overcome ‘silo-mindset’ and jurisdictional-arguments that ultimately result in a highly fragmented user-experience. Concerns around privacy, security and trust are legitimate but not deal-breakers, and what is needed is an open debate amongst key stakeholders within the service ecosystem (e.g. employment, education and social services) to address these issues, create a new ‘social contract’ with the customer and develop a holistic, and insight-driven service model. In addition, opening up non-sensitive data to third parties, agencies can work with the wider market players to unlock even greater potential for innovation.
In the UK, Hackney Council has partnered with tech company Xanthura to develop an AI system to help in providing support to families with multiple needs earlier. The ‘Early Help Predictive System’ uses data from multiple sources to help identify families where extra support may be needed.
Focus innovations in the new
Across the board, innovation leaders are embracing new technologies to drive innovation. They’re far more likely to be exploring the use of AI, blockchain, the Internet of Things, video analytics and biometrics than their counterparts at other agencies. But, crucially, they recognise that the value of these technologies can’t be fully realised without deeper changes to their culture i.e. how does one make the pivot to becoming digital- and data-driven, in day-to-day working, core business processes and most importantly, in decision-making.
There are numerous examples of agencies harnessing the new to achieve game-changing results. In Australia, the Department of Human Services has implemented virtual agents to handle routine enquiries in several areas. One of its virtual assistants, Roxy, helps claims agents with their questions about policies and procedures. It now answers about 80% of all questions, with human experts required for only the most complex cases.
Establish a solid ICT backbone by moving the enterprise to the cloud
Innovation Leaders are embracing public and private cloud infrastructures on which to build the agency of the future. For example, 68% of them are using cloud to support their finance functions and 78% have moved HR services to the cloud. That compares with just 44% of other agencies across both functions. What’s more, moving to the cloud is creating the responsive, agile and scalable architecture that can more easily adapt and integrate new technologies. In Singapore, the Skills future Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) officers are empowered through an integrated platform and 360-degree view of customers to manage customer cases, engagements, events, memberships and grants. This is paired with a business intelligence (BI) reporting capability, which enables meaningful insights for more informed policy and strategy decisions. Customers are therefore able to enjoy an enhanced, seamless experience across SSG/WSG for their lifelong learning and employability pursuits.
If you’d like to find out more about how leaders are embracing new technology , take a look at our report. In the meantime, if you have any comments or questions about new and emerging technology, please get in touch.
 Accenture Intelligent Technologies in Public Service Research, 2016