How today’s artificial intelligence solutions are taking government services to the next frontier.
Take a look around the typical home or car today, and you can see the impact of digital technology on your everyday activities. Organizations of all kinds are using new technologies to deliver game-changing products and services impacting all levels of society. As more parts of our lives take on digital characteristics, it's time to take advantage of computing power that can simplify the relationship between humans and technology in order to make us all more productive.
That’s where artificial intelligence comes in, using computing power to automate routine tasks and provide insights that improve productivity for individuals and organizations. While AI is being rapidly applied for commercial use, it's also being adopted by government agencies, making them more efficient and effective in their missions. Working side-by-side, the human/AI partnership can handle the challenges of our increasingly data-driven economy while enabling innovation that enhances and broadens current mission capabilities.
What is AI, anyway?
Simply put, AI is a collection of advanced technologies that lets computers sense, understand, act and learn more like humans. When agencies successfully apply AI models to their data and procedures, they can improve productivity, reduce risk, serve citizens better and free up employees to work on more creative and complex jobs.
AI takes advantage of the availability of huge amounts of data; programming languages that turn human logic into computer language; advanced math; and the availability of smaller, cheaper and more powerful electronics to mimic—and even improve—on human judgment and analysis. This all happens at blazing speeds.
How does it work?
Here’s one example. Think about how our world is increasingly connected by hundreds of millions of sensors, cameras and mobile devices through the internet. It’s possible to train AI to analyze that fire hose of incoming data, modeling our multilayered human thought process to interpret images, see patterns and report aberrations with superhuman speed and great precision. It’s not just number crunching. It’s the application of human-like logic to understand data and to improve that logical thinking over time through repetitive learning.
How AI gets smarter as it works
More effective government is already at work
All around the federal government, AI is making an impact. One example: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has investigated the use of machine learning and natural language processing—two important AI components—to become more efficient in processing incoming comments from the public about its regulations. Its findings: potential savings of up to 300,000 employee hours and millions of dollars annually. “AI lets you do more with less or broaden your mission with the same resources. It will be commonplace within a couple of years,” said Ira Entis, managing director of Strategic Solutions of Accenture Federal Services.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has deployed EMMA, an AI-powered conversational interface that acts as a virtual assistant. It’s a tool that uses perception, planning, memory and reasoning to answer plain-English questions that come into the agency and guide visitors, in either English or Spanish, to the right spots on the agency’s website. “This is AI as the UI. It’s a new way to interact with the agency, and it extends the agency’s capability 24/7. Every citizen-facing agency can employ a similar interface, and if they do, we’ll realize a huge improvement in customer service across the government,” said Dominic Delmolino, CTO of Accenture Federal Services.
Freedom to work more creatively
So, is AI smart enough to make us humans… obsolete? No, but AI models can seamlessly integrate into the experience workers are already having, augmenting manual processes as an assistant, reading and understanding forms, helping with data entry and making guided recommendations that can reduce errors and even remove potential bias. As AI enables analysis of dauntingly vast amounts of data, it can help employees achieve significant productivity gains—as much as 30 to 40 percent, according to Accenture research—even with tasks that are already automated. “AI opens up new approaches for delivering services. Instead of requiring a workforce to plow through routine work, that low-hanging fruit is swept away so they can be more creative in applying techniques or mission processes to achieve their goals in new ways,” said Delmolino. “I see AI as a productivity booster.”
Computers that think like we do
There may be some lingering concern about AI taking jobs, but that’s not really the issue. AI is going to help agencies accomplish the totality of their missions more efficiently and effectively. “The reason those people took those jobs in the first place was to serve the public and execute the mission of their agency. AI puts them closer to that mission,” said Entis.
AI unlocks the trapped value of data and applies advanced analytics to large data sets to predict trends and delivers new insights. It can do so in an unbiased and consistent manner, offering transparency and increasing citizens’ trust that their data is being used responsibly on their behalf. Automating routine processes and providing transparent guidance and advice to citizens with helpful AI facilitates a better experience with public services, now and in the future. “For decades, we’ve had to adapt our human behavior and think like computers to get them to do what we need them to do. With AI, computers are increasingly able to think like us and adapt to our needs, among them the need to be responsible and attentive to objectivity and trustworthiness,” said Delmolino.
Technology underpins a better government
Ultimately, the role of AI is to transform the relationship between people and machines, improving how we live and work as individuals and a society.
We’ll use AI to reinvent processes and remove not only time and distance constraints but also human limitations. AI processes will improve themselves as they work, combining data in fresh ways to unlock new ideas. AI technology is less of a tool and more of a partner, a smart, fast and indefatigable helper that makes it possible for everyone to do better and more meaningful work.
Technology underpins a better government
Think of artificial intelligence as a collection of technologies that, together, enable human-like behavior.