Artificial intelligence (AI) is making deep inroads into government, helping improve processes, public safety, law enforcement, military operations and customer service. In fact, the use of AI is one of the hottest technology trends in government today. Some 77 percent of federal managers say automation is essential to keep up with the pace of work in their agencies over the next five years.
U.S. legislators recognize the need as well. In September 2018, the Artificial Intelligence in Government Act was introduced with the aim of encouraging AI’s use throughout the federal government.
AI technology – including robotic process automation, machine learning, predictive analytics and cognitive computing – has the potential to free staffers from repetitive activities and give them time to focus efforts on tasks only humans can accomplish.
Here are eight reasons AI is increasingly important to government agencies.
Robots process data more efficiently
By some estimates, 80 percent of data globally resides in formats that make it difficult to analyze efficiently— hard-copy and electronic documents, video, audio and images, for example. But AI software can analyze information no matter the format and automatically send that data to the smart devices of a pre-determined list of people, thus enabling officials to make more informed decisions.
What if an AI program could sift through case backlogs, applications and other requests to identify the ones most likely to be approved by a human? Process robotics does just this. The software is rule-based, programmed by the people who ultimately make the decisions in question. The result is faster response time for all, whether a “bot” or a person resolves the issue.
Predictive analytics improves decision-making
In addition, AI has the potential to navigate the complexities of government and bureaucracy and improve decision-making. The U.S. Air Force, for example, plans to implement AI technology in order to accelerate its purchasing process.
Also, with their ability to make sense of complex data, AI programs can predict the impact of proposed legislation. By sifting through existing regulations, rules and laws, artificial intelligence can identify which areas of government are most likely to be affected, then send that information to concerned parties' inboxes for them to examine fully.
AI strengthens financial control
In auditing, identifying financial irregularities and taxation, AI helps government increase financial control and use human resources more efficiently. By analyzing millions of transactions from multiple sources, artificial intelligence can detect tax evasion, money laundering, fraud and terrorist financing and generate reports on that information for government staff to read. They can then focus on the cases requiring more attention.
Smart use of data enhances public safety
What if we could predict a natural disaster and better prepare citizens and first responders? Artificial intelligence can process information and identify patterns faster than most humans, using data to save lives.
In addition, AI-powered drones survey and collect information from wide geographic areas more efficiently than piloted drones because they’re faster to identify changes in weather or other obstacles. Imagine using these “smart” drones to spot emerging forest fires, or to inspect gas pipelines in remote regions and automatically send the data they collect as an email or text to public safety leaders.
Bots serve citizens more effectively
AI can link information from different agencies and identify problems human review alone would miss. One county in Kansas is using artificial intelligence to locate substance abusers and provide them with social services before they get into trouble. Some child welfare agencies use AI to identify children at risk and intervene to stop abuse before it happens.
More agencies are employing virtual online assistants to provide faster service to the public. For example, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses a chatbot to answer questions in both English and Spanish.
Predictive analytics comes to aid of law enforcement
It’s no secret that external entities are threatening the security of government data, often using AI-based techniques. To counter this, governments need to apply AI to mitigate these risks and forecast possible threats.
Around the world, law enforcement uses artificial intelligence to identify patterns in a huge database and help police find offenders more quickly. Border patrol agents, as well as wildlife rangers, have used the technology to plan their patrol routes. Meanwhile, a non-profit clearinghouse that collects tips on the whereabouts of missing children uses AI-driven analytics to process information and send it to the proper law enforcement agencies.
AI streamlines talent management
Government agencies face the same challenges as private sector companies in finding and retaining the best talent. Artificial intelligence and automation help them source candidates more efficiently, automate interview scheduling and follow-up activities and help prevent bias in hiring.
IoT makes managing facilities more efficient
Combined with the Internet of Things (IoT), AI provides the ability to manage assets and facilities more efficiently. IoT devices feed data to artificial intelligence software that can interpret and take action (as with edge computing), or alert personnel to the need for equipment maintenance.
That saves money by preventing catastrophic equipment failure and interruption of services. It also ensures that equipment is ready when it is needed, supporting public safety and military readiness.
Moving ahead with artificial intelligence
The Internet, and more specifically the cloud, is essential to the collection and analysis of government’s immense amount of data. In preparation for your move to AI-based tools, evaluate your IT infrastructure and make sure it can support these programs.
Reach out to other agencies and municipalities who are a few steps ahead of you and learn how they’re using artificial intelligence. Finally, think hard about your processes and systems to identify where AI can reduce your workload and improve productivity.