AI-augmented government

Article

AI-augmented government

Climbing the AI maturity curve

Authors: William D. Eggers (US) & Thomas Beyer (US)

The growing toolkit of artificial intelligence—from computer vision to machine learning—has the potential to enhance almost everything government does, spanning education, health care, and defense.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new technology. Computers in the past, however, were mostly limited to performing routine processing on structured inputs. Today, AI can perform wildly complex tasks—from driving a car to playing chess to grading essays—at a level often equal to or surpassing the most talented humans, while performing these tasks at scale. AI can also work with humans to produce value in unprecedented ways.

The growing toolkit of AI—computer vision, natural conversation, and machines that learn over time—has the potential to enhance almost everything government does, from education and health care to policing and defense. Until recently, many governments struggled to understand what AI could accomplish; today, more than 80 percent of early adopter public sector organizations we surveyed are using or planning to use AI, and nearly 90 percent consider cognitive technologies to be of extreme strategic importance for their internal business processes. And AI is just at the beginning of the adoption curve.

One reason AI can work well for government is that it needs volumes of data—and governments have plenty of volume. Already, the US federal government has digitized more than 235 million pages of government records, and it plans to reach 500 million pages by fiscal year 2024. Imagine the value of intelligent machines processing this vast trove of data. As the connected sensors on the Internet of Things produce ever-more data, and as cloud computing makes data-sharing easier, AI should make it possible to tackle more ambitious problems in various industries:

  • Health care. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service is using AI-driven chatbots to assist patients with non-life-threatening conditions. This frees doctors’ time to focus on patients who actually need emergency care. In Japan, the government is planning to invest US$100 million to build 10 “smart” hospitals to address the shortage of medical professionals. The hospitals will use AI to analyze medical test results and recommend appropriate treatments.
  • Transportation. Pittsburgh has installed AI-enabled traffic lighting, which has helped cut travel times by 25 percent and idling times by 40 percent. Singapore is using AI and data analytics for its intelligent transportation system to reduce traffic congestion and improve the punctuality of its public transport.
  • Human services. Australia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) deploys an internal chatbot called Roxy that uses AI to answer queries from case-processing officers. The chatbot can answer about 85 percent of the questions asked by case-processing officers, thus reducing the DHS staff’s workload. In the Netherlands, a government agency has used machine learning to detect fraud and waste in its social benefit programs.
  • Law enforcement. The city of Chicago is attempting to prevent violent crimes before they happen. The city’s predictive analytics unit runs spatial algorithms on 911 call data to identify where and when violent crimes or robberies are most likely to happen.
  • Defense and national security. The United Kingdom’s Institute for Strategic Dialogue has developed a natural-language-based solution to monitor the internet for signs of radicalization. Of the total sample of 42,000 individuals identified online, nearly 800 were found to indicate signs of extremism. In South Korea, the armed services launched the AI Research and Development Center in January 2019. The center will comprise 50 military and civilian staff with knowledge of AI, big data, and other emerging technologies; they will collaborate with nongovernment partners to develop AI capabilities for military use.

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