Governments are continually expanding and shrinking as economic shifts occur, new governments get elected, and the public’s preferences change. Despite record spending, citizen satisfaction continues to lag.
The US budget deficit for the fiscal year ended 2019 widened to $984 billion, which was 4.6% of the nation’s gross domestic product, the highest in 7 years. The previous fiscal year deficit was $779 billion, with a deficit-to-GDP-ratio of 3.8%.
The Economists continue to raise questions about the efficacy of administrations getting chosen.
The public sector faces the challenge of keeping costs under check while providing efficient services to the citizens and scaling to meet their ever-changing needs. It is indeed the right time for technology adoption and digital transformation.
Intelligent automation has proven results in the private sector- it aids in decreasing cost and creates better results. In the process, digital workers and Intelligent Automation in the Public Sector will revolutionize the entire process of work.
Intelligent Automation in the Public Sector
Intelligent Automation envelopes a variety of technologies that help streamline business processes. Such technology includes Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing(NLP).
Intelligent Automation technologies can be bucketed as per the business objectives and level of technology sophistication achieved.
Stage 1:- Pivots on RPA ( Robotic Process Automation)
Robotic Process Automation can automate routine, rule-based processes. Back-office departments provide ideal pockets for initiating RPA.
RPA can help an organization pace faster with processes. Data-intensive processes are right to start with at the outset. Think of data monitoring, logging in data, scheduling, exception handling, and more.
Data entry ( order, invoice), post documents into a system, run and download reports, reconcile data, apply static business rules, and many more.
Ideal candidates for RPA usually have high-transaction volumes, low exceptions, stable, and well-defined processes.
Consider an example where a digital worker has been deployed for a Finance process. The digital worker can open and read an email from the supplier, print it for records, enter the Purchase Order (PO) to retrieve invoices, match the PO and the invoice, calculate tax, and complete the invoicing process.
Another example could be Human Resources. Federal agencies employ more than 2 million workers throughout the United States. Using RPA, digital workers can complete new employees joining formalities, payroll process, and share the burden of HR professionals in onboarding employees.
Robotic automation can also fill process gaps. From simpler tasks, such as password resets, system reboots, etc. to complex ones like license renewal, change of address, can be handled by end to end by digital workers.
Stage 2:- Cognitive Automation
As an agency moves up the IA pyramid, cognitive technologies like NLP (Natural Language Processing) can address complex interactions requiring a deep level of analytics.
In today’s world, the number of people interacting with government agencies has grown exponentially. Interactions have moved beyond face-to-face and telephone communications to web interactions, mobile communications, and now social platforms.
With that in mind, NLP and chatbots can provide intelligent communications across channels.
So where are government agencies applying Intelligent Automation in the public sector today?
Have you met EMMA? She has assisted thousands of people applying for the US work visa and US green cards over the years.
EMMA, named after Emma Lazarus, an American poet- known for her poem on the Statue of Liberty, is a virtual assistant, an AI chatbot, for the Department of Homeland Security for US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
EMMA is intended to help the people with requests about immigration services, green cards, passports, and any service offered by this department.
In another application, in January 2019, beginning of the tax season, Kansas got some help for its residents, adding an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot named Agent Kay to its online tax portal.
Agent Kay can answer hundreds of resident questions and helps Kansas residents with Kansas and federal income tax and other types of filings.
Combat Casualty Care Program:-
In another example, Machine Learning and natural language processing exhibit patterns and efficiently guide responses.
For instance, the “Combat Casualty Care Program”- The US Army’s Medical Department is developing wearable physiological monitors that use a machine-learning algorithm to understand the seriousness of wounds, to help medics in prioritizing treatments.
The system works by comparing the digital record with images of a patient’s body taken with an open wound. By looking at the digital image, the algorithm can figure out which areas of the body are more severely injured, giving doctors a better idea of how to allocate the best treatment to the patient.” The medical system can then determine if the person has a more severe injury that requires surgery or hospitalization.
In another interesting application, the Department of Solar Forecasts uses algorithms, computer vision techniques, and natural language processing to predict the cost and availability of solar energy from a large number of variables.
The United States Department of Solar Forecasts is proving 30 percent more accurate using cognitive computing technologies than the ones using conventional methods.
To produce its forecasts, the Department of Solar Forecasts uses predictive analytics technologies, which allows them to analyze thousands of solar energy forecasts from across the globe.
If you are part of a government agency, where can you start with Intelligent automation opportunities?
Intelligent automation can be a key to several technological developments, including the ones that start small and assist with support functions.
Look for where automation can automate repetitive tasks, where can it help and support citizen service.
Start small. For example, look to improve efficiency.
Reduce Paperwork & Improve efficiency:
Government employees spend considerable time in paperwork. A recent study reveals that state and local officials had trouble getting their work done in a 35-to-40 hour week due to excessive paperwork burden.
Besides, it is not uncommon to have problems with the ability to effectively communicate with federal personnel when there are a large number of unstructured documents on the system. The result is less-than-efficient, chaotic, and messy management that adds to the costs of an extremely complex system.
Automation, including “digital workers,” provides an excellent solution here. Digital workers mimic the steps taken to complete various tasks- fill out forms, purchase orders, cutting and pasting information from one spreadsheet to another, accessing multiple databases- accurately and rapidly.
The Social Security Administration had more than a million cases pending at the end of fiscal 2016. The problem multiplies since it expects one-third of its total workforce, nearly 22000 employees, to retire by 2022.
Robotics and cognitive automation can address all these pain points- resource restrictions, reduce paperwork responsibilities, and backlogs.
Augment human efforts :
Think of the Digital worker as an assistant. A virtual worker who can free you up to accomplish higher-value work. That brings immense value to the personal roles of employees and growth.
Digital workers are here to augment the jobs of employees who today stay stuck onto swivel-chair activities.
In the public sector, RPA can truly drive purpose outcomes. Several federal agencies – like Treasury, NASA, and the U.S. Army – are already putting RPA to use. Define your goal and then prioritize automation on how it can assist you.
Embrace the digital worker. Its sole purpose is to redefine the value that an employee can add to the organization; subsequently, the organization can add to the ecosystem.