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Building a new reality in public services


June 14, 2023

From the author: I recently sat down with our global Public Service leadership team – Dan Boxwell, Hibiki Mizuta, and Dan Sheils – to discuss Accenture’s Technology Vision 2023 trends. In this blog, we collectively explore the impact these trends will have on public sector organizations world wide.

How public service agencies operate and the way they intersect with the citizens they serve are in the throes of massive change. As the boundaries between our physical and digital lives become ever more indistinct, there are new possibilities to solve problems that would have been impossible yesterday. There’s also an urgent need for new guardrails, mindsets and responsibilities to ensure new technologies are used ethically to benefit us all.

According to Technology Vision 2023: When Atoms Meet Bits, 98% of public service organizations agree they need a more systematic way to manage the use of emerging technologies in a responsible and ethical manner. The Technology Vision goes on to detail four key technology trends converging our physical and digital lives.

The four technology trends are:

In exploring these trends, agencies told us that they’re actively aligning planned investments to a strategic focus on AI, next-gen computing and metaverse technologies (64% said they anticipate making a significant increase in the resources they dedicate to AI, 47% plan to do the same for next-generation computing).

Generalizing AI: pushing the boundaries of intelligence

Breakthroughs in foundation models and large language models (LLM) like ChatGPT are making headlines worldwide. And for good reason. They’re reinventing human-machine interactions and the very nature of work itself will change out of all recognition.

Bryan Rich, Accenture’s Global AI & Data Lead for Health & Public Service, explains the infinite opportunity this presents, “Generative AI will help transform how systems and individuals function and interact. It’s a co-evolutionary step change in the human-machine relationship, with important implications for public sector: data democratization and citizen experience to radically simplify the repeatability of complex tasks by government workers.”

Given the geostrategic value of AI, we’re likely to see its fastest and broadest adoption in areas of the public sector dealing with security challenges. The defense sector will be a vital engine driving spending and innovation, given the complexity and scale of the challenges it has to confront.

But there are also constraints to the use of these advanced AIs in some areas of government and public service. Lack of skills is one. So education and training of the public sector workforce of today and tomorrow will be mission critical.

As well as retraining their own people, governments will also need to take a broader view. They’ll have to work across education and the private sector to help shape and effect the required skills revolution to equip all citizens for working lives that will look very different from today.

Another possible constraint? Responsible AI. While AI has the potential to make government services orders of magnitude smarter and faster, it could also replicate existing biases, reinforce existing inequalities and threaten data security. In addition, it could create new issues (such as disinformation) that may lead to harmful outcomes. So government agencies will need to ensure that AI is deployed responsibly, transparently and with human oversight. One example is the AI-powered contract-writing solution known as “AcqBot” for the Department of Defense. The prototype generates language, similar to ChatGPT, to write contracts and fill out PDFs. While this greatly reduces the administrative burden, AcqBot doesn’t make any contract decisions. There’s always a human reviewing the bot’s progress.

Why data transparency is the most precious resource

The Your data, my data, our data trend explores the importance of data transparency and its growing centrality to how all data-driven organizations operate. But it’s especially germane to government agencies: Accenture’s Global 2022 Citizen Experience research found that only about half of all citizens believe that government uses their data for the purposes it claims. Curiously, people are much more comfortable about sharing their data with major platform companies.

The opportunities that data mastery offers government are massive. So, solving this conundrum should be a priority. Agencies can address this by proactively designing data architectures and solutions with transparency at their heart. That’s not all, as the risk of cyberattacks increases, training public sector workers to prevent data breaches and maintain public trust will become even more important. One example is the solution Accenture has developed to help public safety agencies in the UK to improve the reporting experience for survivors of sexual assault. It does this by giving them greater control of their own data.

Making more data transparent and accessible, in other words democratizing it, is also hugely important. If citizens have the tools and access to government data, they can make better decisions themselves. Today governments spend public money on gathering data and then typically limit public access to, say, an annual report. But imagine, instead, open access that enables citizens to solve problems. Take farmers, for example. They’d be able to make use of decades of weather, soil and commodity prices to determine which crops they should grow in their local area.

Safe, secure ID for all

Closely related to the data trend is Digital identity: ID for everyone and everything. The fundamental premise here is that robust digital identity is now within reach as new ID solutions start to emerge. It’s a real concern for governments and public service agencies: 92% of public service executives agree that authentication issues are having a negative impact on citizen experiences, and 94% agree that digital identity is becoming a strategic business imperative.

Citizens expect it too. But they are often bemused by the need to provide their personal details again and again across different services. Solving this is as much a political challenge as it is a technical bridge to cross. In many countries, strict privacy rules prevent data sharing between agencies. So a public debate needs to iron out these issues in order to achieve the right balance between safety and convenience. But there is real impetus behind digital identity in the public sector. As one of the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN has called for all citizens to have a legal ID by 2030.

Science and computing converge

And finally, the fourth Technology Vision 2023 trend, Our Forever Frontier, explores how the feedback loop between science and technology innovation is spinning ever faster. Advances in technology are spurring new discoveries in science and vice versa. Look at the way that COVID-19 vaccines were developed, for example. Breakthroughs in computational immunology and virtual collaboration technologies enabled the development of highly-effective vaccines at unprecedented speed. The convergence between science and computing technology calls for a new approach to education, breaking down the silos between the two and fostering the cross-pollination upon which critical innovations in the future will depend.

Take a look at our Accenture Technology Vision 2023 to explore each of these trends in more depth. In a time of such volatility and disruption, the promise of technology has never been more relevant or more needed. 


Anita Puri

Managing Director – Public Service, Global Lead