Lance Bellers - Fotolia
Governments worldwide -- from the local to state to federal level -- are quickly realizing the potential of AI and cognitive technologies. Many government agencies and organizations are not only working to bring cognitive technologies into their various workflows and processes, but they are also putting significant effort into funding and researching AI for their citizens in both a business and personal capacity.
Increasing government efficiency through bots
Working with governmental agencies is often a rather time-consuming process, with lots of paperwork, regulations and policies to follow. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that government agencies are actively working to implement cognitive technologies in various ways to cut down on these document- and process-related problems, bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Agencies are beginning to actively embrace the use of AI in government through intelligent bots.
Many back-office processes are benefiting from AI. A significant amount of human time is spent recording information, inputting data, filing and processing paperwork, and satisfying other policy or legal requirements. Robotic process automation (RPA) and other cognitive automation technologies are being adopted to help cut down the amount of time humans are spending doing these tasks.
Government agencies in the U.S., including the National Science Foundation, IRS, General Services Administration and others, are using RPA and cognitive technologies to help augment their current workforce and save precious time from the employee's day to free them up for higher-value tasks. They are using cognitive systems to help digitize content, identify the structure and elements -- fields, tables and boxes -- of a document, locate and extract data, and move documents along in the approval process.
Government agencies are also using bots to enhance interactions with citizens. Customer service chatbots are increasing the customer service experience by providing answers and help all hours of the day that might not require the assistance of a human being. An example of this would be an AI bot that can provide information on how to register a business with the government, sign up for a service or navigate through a website. These AI-powered bots can cut down on call times with human agents and provide information to the user in real time, rather than forcing them to call into a call center during normal business hours.
Local government use of AI
In addition to the adoption of AI and cognitive technologies by the federal government, many local and state governments are seeing benefits from these, as well. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is using an AI-enabled system known as Coptivity to send detailed reports on suspects to deputies prior to engagement. Traditionally, police officers were dependent on a human manually running license plates. However, with this new voice-based technology, officers are able to run more comprehensive reports like background checks to help them approach citizens in a more prepared capacity.
Cities are also turning to AI to help with traffic congestion. The city of Pittsburgh used AI to build automated traffic optimization and control software to help reduce travel times, the number of traffic stops and overall wait times for drivers. Nevada transportation agencies partnered with Waze and Waycare to help reduce crashes along the busy I-15 in Las Vegas. Using crowdsourced data from drivers, as well as predictive analytics, the traffic authority was able to receive predictive data allowing it get ahead of potential accidents, notify drivers faster of potential crashes or slowdowns and possibly divert drivers, if needed.
Additionally, AI algorithms are helping the criminal justice system to assist public defenders, as well as to deliver more appropriate bail amounts and prison sentences. While this is currently being used on a smaller scale and has been somewhat controversial, the implications could lead to interesting changes in the way criminals are sentenced upon conviction.
Public defenders in the United States are burdened with large workloads and ever-increasing piles of paperwork and information they need to sort through. The Tubman Project is an open source initiative aimed at providing AI-enabled tools to help automate and augment the work of the public defender's office to help attorneys stay on top of their heavy workload.
Worldwide government adoption of AI
The United States is far from the only country where the use of AI in government is growing. The use of AI is spreading on a global level, with almost two dozen countries creating a national strategy for AI. China is currently making advancements with AI technology focused on surveillance, health diagnostics, intelligent agriculture and defense work. The country's government has released a detailed plan to establish itself as a world leader in AI technology by the year 2030. Its surveillance efforts will likely surpass what can be expected in most other countries, because China has less of a focus on individual privacy.
Australia has also joined the race, vowing to spend $30 million on AI over the course of four years in order to enhance government efficiencies in various ways. The government is focusing its efforts on facial recognition technologies that are already currently being used to identify key suspects in hopes of limiting organized crime. It's also working to enhance cybersecurity efforts to protect the Australian people.
It's well known that Japan has an aging population, and a workforce shortage is expected in the coming years. With this in mind, Japan's government released its Artificial Intelligence Technology Strategy in March 2017. This strategy includes an Industrialization Roadmap and focuses the development of AI into three phases: the "utilization and application" of AI through 2020, the public's use of AI from 2025 to 2030 and, lastly, an "ecosystem built by connecting multiplying domains." Japan's strategy focuses on R&D for AI through collaboration between industry, government and academia to advance areas related to productivity, welfare and mobility.
The German government has released complex plans to invest in AI in various ways, with the most interesting being the management of exports. Because exports is an area that is heavily regulated, the use of AI can likely increase the speed with which certain processes can be carried out and might even be able to help limit the number of places breaking any rules.
There is no lack of interest when it comes to the use of AI in government, both within the United States and globally. The power of this technology makes it easy to envision a seamless world where AI manages the repetitive, remedial and process-heavy tasks so employees and citizens can work on higher-value tasks. The reality that AI can help governments to work more effectively and gain new skills makes it easy to see why we should expect to see more plans laid out in the future.