Artificial Intelligence today is bringing forth changes in the way every sector operates. The growth curve for AI has been colossal with industries in almost all sectors witnessing massive disruption and change in the way of functioning.
In the words of Ray Kurzweil, computer scientist and futurist, “Artificial intelligence will reach human levels by around 2029. Follow that out further to, say, 2045, we will have multiplied the intelligence, the human biological machine intelligence of our civilization a billion-fold.”
Leave aside speculations surrounding AI, most industries including banking, finance, healthcare, e-commerce and more are set to see enormous gains in terms of scalability, speed, efficiency and profitability. AI with its sophisticated tools and subfields of Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Deep Learning are making things smarter, more efficient, and cheaper by reducing man-hours while bringing in brilliant solutions to existing tailbacks within a sector.
The benefits of AI in businesses are profound but at the same time, it is worth noting that AI has the potential to forever change the way the public sector functions as well.
Globally, there is a common feeling against bureaucracy. The public sector is plagued with several concerns like slow proceedings, lack of transparency, lethargic service, and too much paperwork. The biggest challenges are fast-tracking public sector processes, and services and maintaining data on all the information generated. AI and deep learning solutions have started to change the way the public sector is functioning.
The benefits of using AI in the public sector are multifold. The technologies have immense potential to ensure the best economic advantages, social benefits, saving time, and driving economic growth in the process.
With the better pre-emptive analysis and ability to process information while performing complex tasks at a much higher and faster rate than humans, AI can be a game-changer if its full potential is realized in the public sector.
Some of the ways how AI can benefit make the public sector smarter and more efficient are:
Better quality service: AI can improve public sector services by making them more efficient which leads to increased job satisfaction amongst the public servants and enhance services and service delivery for the citizens.
By allowing scope for complex analysis through data, AI helps to understand specific needs of individuals. It can fast-track legal cases, clear audit trails, improve traffic management that ensures public safety and decrease road risks.
It can also enable improvement and maintenance of public infrastructures and suggest building newer ones based on data collection.
Another instance where AI can enhance public service is in addressing traffic conditions. Data can be collected about traffic flows which can be utilized to enhance traffic management and create infrastructures to address future congestions. Smarter management of traffic is facilitated through more accurate prediction of traffic flows and optimizing the timings of traffic lights.
Identifying Tax Fraud: Preventing fraudulent crime is a top priority for any financial institutions and also government agencies when it comes to filing of income-tax or submitting business returns. Implementing some form of digital transformation has a crucial role in terms of digitalization of public services which can become far and smarter in collection of taxes and identifying tax fraud.
With the initiation of AI, tax administrations can turn data into a business asset (PDF) using predictive modeling. This simplifies compliance and helps prevent tax errors and fraud. The outcome is that it can help improve taxpayer services by facilitating payment methods, issuing faster refunds and giving easier access to relevant information, and reduce operation times, costs, improve risk management techniques and audit efficiency.
Climate Prediction and Disaster Management: Researchers are now leveraging AI technology to tackle climate change problems using data. Claire Monteleoni, a computer scientist at George Washington University in Washington DC, says, “Climate is now a data problem”. Monteleoni has pioneered the use of machine-learning techniques to make advanced research in climate science.
With the help of AI, scientists are able to identify new climate patterns which aid in forecasting weather and foretell floods thus allowing more time for disaster preparedness.
For instance, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) use machine learning to improve their forecasts. They found that “applying AI techniques along with a physical understanding of the environment can significantly improve the prediction skill for multiple types of high-impact weather.” High-impact weather includes events like severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.
One example the paper highlighted is that machine learning can provide more accurate hail forecasting which causes billions of dollars in damages every year. Even a modest improvement in hail warning could significantly save in damages by getting individuals to move their cars and themselves to safety.
More accurate weather forecasts can help the agricultural sector to take critical decisions in terms of plantation and harvesting, thus minimizing loss of harvest due to bad weather or heavy rainfall.
Smart chatbots to assist: One of the main areas where the public sector is found wanting is providing good quality customer service. The help desks are often dysfunctional and inefficient making access to information very difficult for the general public. Even minor issues go unattended. Many public sector institutions like city councils such as North Charleston, Los Angeles and Kansas City are using chatbots to assist in repetitive time-consuming tasks, reduce workload, and improve service delivery.
With AI bots, this concern can be ruled out. The smart conversational AI-powered Chatbots carry out natural conversation just like a human and give accurate responses. They use highly sophisticated Natural Language processing to understand the context of a user query to give the right response.
Over time the software robots get smarter with more inputs and hence give better suggestions and get more reliable. The best part is the bots are 24/7. They don’t get tired or need a holiday to be away like humans and are always at public disposal.
Better insights in policymaking:
The public sector needs to frame effective and decisive policies to handle existing issues in the public interest. With smart insights from the generated data, AI can help the government gain a better understanding of public concerns and help in better policymaking.
For example, poverty is the primary UN Sustainable development goal and most countries need to tackle it hands down. The onus is more on the public sector. Scientists and researchers are pressing in on the tremendous potential that AI has to help eliminate global poverty by fighting poverty through data, and gathering, collating and providing valuable insights and information through data analysis by use of satellite imagery.
Cognitive technologies can very well be the future of government functioning. It has started to penetrate the public sector space and the host of benefits they bring is forcing the public sector to re-imagine and re-design its existing functions to handle loopholes, make processes efficient and help in better governance. While the benefits are enormous, there is also a palpable fear of loss of human jobs to AI.
More experts worldwide have however assured that AI wouldn’t necessarily replace existing employees. It would rather augment public sectors working through automation of repetitive and mundane tasks. It is time as experts say that the public sector and civil societies work in concert with AI to simplify and speed up the most difficult and complex tasks in public governance.