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Generative AI: Reinventing work for public service organizations


April 30, 2024

Generative AI is already demonstrating its enormous power to transform the nature of work. In every industry, potential is turning into promise, with enthusiastic experimentation in multiple areas of activity. But generative AI’s revolutionary implications extend far beyond improving today’s work. It can fundamentally change how people; organizations and the wider economy operate and perform.

Generative AI will transform work within governments and public sector agencies. And it will also create a new challenge for these organizations. This will be to support other industries and the labor force at large to ensure that the benefits of AI are equitably distributed and that no one is left behind in the digital transformation. This dual role is unique to the public sector and puts it at the heart of the generative AI revolution.

It’s only when America’s public sector [AI] is healthy that the ecosystem altogether is healthy. Especially when public sector AI shoulders the responsibility for deep knowledge discovery for good, for the public, as well as technological assessment and evaluation that is independent of for-profit motives.

Dr Fei-Fei Li / Sequoia Professor in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University, and Co-Director of Stanford’s Human-Centered AI Institute, at CES 2024.

The size of the prize

Accenture’s Work, workforce, workers: Reinvented in the age of generative AI report reveals that 42% of all working hours in public service globally are in scope for augmentation or automation through generative AI. In addition, an estimated 16% of time saved across the entire public service value chain can transform efficiency and effectiveness, reinventing work and workflows.

To turn potential into reality, public service leaders must understand the magnitude and extent of the transformation generative AI represents for their people and simultaneously help to prepare and support organizations for the generative AI era.

This means addressing three imperatives:

1. People: Upskilling for the generative AI era

Our research reveals that 97% of public service employees want to acquire generative AI skills. But today, only 7% of public service organizations are reskilling their people at scale. It’s a gap leaders must address urgently.

This will be made easier by public service employees’ positive outlook about generative AI and its impacts — our research shows that they’re more optimistic than their peers in other industries.

Public service workers are more optimistic than their peers in other industries about the impact of gen AI on work
Public service workers are more optimistic than their peers in other industries about the impact of gen AI on work

To capitalize on this optimistic and positive outlook, it will be crucial to provide personalized and targeted upskilling and training programs. These programs should cater to the needs of a multi-generational workforce, address employee concerns, and prepare and develop their people responsibly, so that employees are are "net better off" and the public service seen as an employer of choice.

Our research shows that 45% of public service leaders identify skills shortages as a top three challenge for responding to change. Developing the workforce in generative AI is critical for public service organizations. By upskilling existing employees, public service organizations can develop the necessary skills to effectively serve their communities. In addition, this investment in skills development will help attract and retain talent who view it as a commitment to their professional growth.

2. Public service organizations: Restructuring how work is done

Generative AI doesn't just change how today’s work is done and who does it, it’s a paradigm shift in the nature of work itself. There are vast rewards for public service organizations that grasp and act on this understanding.

The Department of Homeland Security is becoming the first federal agency to embrace the technology with a plan to incorporate generative AI models across a wide range of divisions. In partnerships with OpenAI, Anthropic and Meta, it will launch pilot programs using chatbots and other tools to help combat drug and human trafficking crimes, train immigration officials and prepare emergency management across the nation.

Our analysis shows that, implemented across the public service value chain, generative AI will mean greater operational efficiency. Crucially, it’ll mean working more effectively and delivering better, more personalized citizen and employee experiences.

75 percent of public service organizations don’t have comprehensive strategies in place to help ensure these positive outcomes with generative AI. Their mandate is to redesign entire workflows where generative AI can have the greatest impact, reallocate the workforce and rewire the organization to foster cross-functional collaboration.

One example: an AI-generated search engine built for Ministry of Justice of Spain can rapidly locate and simplify judicial process information hidden in hundreds of thousands of complex documents.

However, it’s important to also note that much of government still needs to build its digital core and that shifting to the cloud should remain a priority for public sector organizations if they are to realize greater value from generative AI. In fact, a 2023 Accenture study found that 53% of US state CIOs indicated workforce skill shortages and a lack of staff are impeding their organization’s adoption of cloud services.

3. Communities: Navigating structural economic shifts

As the impact of generative AI is increasingly felt across various industries and regions, it’ll be essential for governments and public service organizations to shape and deliver carefully targeted regulations, guidelines and proactive measures to ensure that the benefits of AI are equitably distributed, and that the workforce is adequately supported during the digital transformation.

Governments can help manage inevitable labor market transformations by supporting both industry and its people. Navigating AI at a statewide or regional scale includes anticipating job changes, promoting collaboration between industry and education, supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, and helping to match jobs with skills.

By embracing this role, governments and public service organizations can shape a future labor market that’s inclusive, resilient and well-prepared for the opportunities and challenges generative AI presents. The World Economic Forum’s AI Governance Alliance is one such initiative uniting industry leaders, governments, academic institutions and civil society organizations to champion responsible global design and release of transparent and inclusive AI systems.

Responsible deployment of AI solutions requires governance that addresses security, intellectual property rights, bias, ethics and discriminatory content. Transparency in the use of generative AI is also crucial for public service organizations, given the very personal and private nature of the information that is being handled. Building trust can help ensure that the full potential of generative AI is realized across public service personnel and organizations, as well as the communities they serve.

Enabling an inclusive and resilient future with generative AI

Public service is responsible for transforming its own work processes and upskilling its workforce, but it must also support and guide businesses and communities through the changes brought by generative AI. By prioritizing upskilling, restructuring work, navigating economic shifts and building trust, public service organizations can pave the way for a future that is inclusive, resilient and prepared for the opportunities and challenges of generative AI. Now is the time for public service leaders to take action.


Natalie Sisto

Managing Director – Health & Public Service, Workforce & Talent Transformation

Rainer Binder

Managing Director – Health & Public Service, Social Services and Workforce & Talent Transformation