Artificial Intelligence: New Possibilities for Government

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Every company has customers that they care deeply about. Whether you are a retailer selling Italian furniture, an electronics company in China manufacturing the latest computer device, or an oil and gas company delivering oilfield services in Canada, customer is king. However, I would argue that the most important customer-company relationship is that between a citizen and their government. Can artificial intelligence help improve this relationship?

The level of trust and accountability expected from our Government institutions and officials is unparalleled. There is little to no room for any errors. There are no “refunds or exchanges” of services. From deciding who to admit into their borders, to ensuring that social services benefits go to the right person, thousands and thousands of routine and micro decisions can have a domino effect on entire countries.

Governments have an immense responsibility and duty to get it right, every time. In a world that is increasingly global and complex, understanding and using technology to stay ahead of the curve is no longer considered innovative, but the minimum expectation we have for Governments.

Protect citizens and the nation, serve the needs of a changing demographic, attract business and foreign investment, provide personalised and contextualised services to businesses, citizens and visitors – these are the demands on civil servants today.  Every stakeholder today expects their interactions with Government to be as good, or even better than, the best that they experience in the commercial world.  All of this must be done with intense competition for budget and timelines that are ever more challenging.  Sound familiar?

If it does, perhaps it is time to reimagine your world aided by artificial intelligence.  Some call it Artificial Intelligence.  I would prefer to call it Augmented Intelligence. Over the last couple of years, various Government agencies have been experimenting with AI but it is early days yet.   So, where does one start in this era of man and machine?  Which process do you pick?

Here is a litmus test that one could use to identify the most appropriate application for artificial intelligence:

  1. Does the candidate process leverage a lot of data?  Could other types of data (unstructured, open source, third party owned) bring insights and improve the candidate process? For instance, a field commander responding to an emergency incident
  2. Is a level of personalised service required? Specifically, would details of the citizen or business change the nature of the service being provided?  For instance, hyper local services provided to a community based on their specific needs.
  3. Does the process consume significant time but is mostly repetitive, requires some level of knowledge and intelligence to execute successfully?  For instance, visa processing for business travellers.

One could argue that most Government processes would fall into the above 3 categories but I have found that this litmus test allows sponsors of AI projects to compare the use cases with the most potential to deliver tangible results.  As we work with our Government Clients on AI projects, we also see some consistent patterns that define success.  It is time to see AI as a core part of a transformational project rather than a technical capability that is nice to have.  Teams assigned to handle AI projects must be encouraged to challenge the status quo, the existing biases about why things are done in a certain way and must be allowed to imagine new possibilities, aided by augmented intelligence and co-creation methodologies like IBM Design Thinking.

Around the world, we are seeing a new generation of leaders who are seeing artificial intelligence not as a necessary evil but as an essential catalyst to re-invention.  How will you embrace AI and its true potential in transforming your business and elevating your relationship with your constituents?

Chief Executive, IBM UK and Ireland

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