GUEST POST BY Mike Byerly, IBM Client Representative
Report on Thursday, September 27th: A3 Center Event: Using Artificial Intelligence to Transform Government
How has the US federal, as well as state and local, government already leveraged artificial intelligence to drive outcomes for their constituents? What have they learned? What has worked well, and what hasn’t? What lessons can other agencies learn from? These were the questions on discussion during the recently held event Using Artificial Intelligence to Transform Government, held on September 27th.
Located in the heart of Washington, DC, IBM’s A3 Center (which stands for Analytics, Automation, and AI solutions) stands in a unique position to bring together the public and private sector for thoughtful discussion. In the discussion, senior leaders from the US federal government, municipal government, the private sector, and IBM discussed some of the key successes and challenges that individual leaders have encountered when leveraging AI technologies to improve customer (and citizen) outcomes.
The conversation was wide-ranging and touched upon a number of different topics – the entire recording and pdf's can be found here. In order to keep this blog post to a reasonable length, I have highlighted a few of the topics discussed, and gone into more detail around a few select remarks.
The first panel, entitled “The Future Has Begun: Using AI to Transform Government” was moderated by Mallory Bulman (of the Partnership for Public Service) and included Camron Gorguinpour (Principal, Woden LLC), Alex Holsinger (Criminal Justice Coordinator for Johnson County, KS), and Maureen Rajaballey (IT Manager, Miami-Dade County, FL). All panelists made interesting points. Maureen Rajaballey, IT Manager from Miami-Dade County, Florida, discussed how her county had begun to leverage call center solutions to improve their bill-collecting capabilities. One of the first questions she was asked by her workers was: is this technology going to replace me? Is it going to take my job?
Maureen discussed the importance of emphasizing how technology can play a role in augmenting and improving the lives of call center works. What call center worker wants to work at 3AM, or on holidays? By focusing on the positive aspects of the call center technology, and involving those workers in the discussion about its implementation, she was able to create advocates that embraced the technology. The initiative has proven a huge success. A new analytics dashboard allows Miami-Date to monitor how many calls they receive per hour, how many are taken by AI, how many are resolved, how many gas vs. electric bills are being paid. By continually reinforcing the “wins” of the program, Mallory has been able to expand its success.
The second presentation, by Kevin Desouza of Queensland University of Technology, discussed his thoughtful report “Delivering Artificial Intelligence in Government.” Desouza frames the governmental opportunity in three key areas: technology and data, workforce, and risk management. In his view, government agency leaders are already beginning to take the first steps needed to take advantage of artificial intelligence solutions, for example, upgrading existing IT infrastructure to support AI systems, identifying data intensive applications that can benefit from AI and establishing data governance to take advantage of the benefits of AI, and enabling their workforce to use AI (through agile implementations and redesigned work processes). By being aware of these challenges and addressing them thoughtfully, government officials are more likely for a successful implementation of AI that will be embraced and yield results.
The final presentation, “Delivering AI in Government: Challenges and Opportunity” was moderated by Claude Yusti (of IBM), and included Franz Gayle (Science and Technology Advisor within the Marine Corps), Joe Greenblott (Acting Director, Analysis Division, Office of Planning, Analysis and Accountability, EPA), Jose Arrietta (Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary, Division of Acquisition, HHS), Mallesh Murugesan (Founder & CEO, Abeyon) and Armita Soroosh (of TSA).
Again, all of the panelists made interesting points. Jose Arrietta of Health and Human Servicers discussed how his team more effectively managed $24 billion dollars per year of government contract spending. By ‘building the limbic system of the enterprise’ (an indexed taxonomy of buying behavior across departments), HHS was able to push pricing info directly to their agents, show them the best prices, and enable them to negotiate better rates with suppliers, all in real-time. By doing so, Jose drove dramatic cost savings. By beginning with a small pilot project, getting consecutive buy-in as the project increased in scope, and eventually rolling out the solution to all agents, HHS was able to entirely transform its buying behavior. The cost savings were significant.
Franz Gayle, of the USMC, discussed the broad range of interest that the DoD has expressed in artificial intelligence and its potential. For example: while the Marine Corps has traditionally been characterized as a “follower” within the DoD in terms of innovation and trying new things (following the Army and Air Force), current leadership understands that today, this is no longer a viable strategy. For this reason, the USMC is currently working with AI technology firms to fund projects that “can fail”. By carefully implementing AI solutions that are similar to those that have been tried and tested in private sector, risk can be in reduced to the USMC. Creating useful military applications should therefore be possible and relatively straightforward. The DoD recognizes the importance of continuing to evolve its AI capability.
While the government is still in its early stages of leveraging the full potential of Artificial Intelligence technologies, the discussions made it clear: there are government agencies realizing benefits from AI today. Change will continue, and it will only continue to accelerate. IBM is working hand-in-hand with government customers, using best practices learned from the private sector (and other government customers), to adopt AI successfully. Public agencies are still in their relatively early days of experimenting with AI, and these efforts are bound to intensify.
To help government innovators progress in this area, the A3 Center will continue to hold events to discuss these important topics. Visit the A3 Center website to see upcoming events and register to attend.