You are here

May 25, 2017

I recently had the opportunity to attend the ServiceNow Knowledge17 User Conference in Orlando, Florida. This event is sponsored annually by the cloud solution provider, ServiceNow, and serves as an opportunity for users and partners to gather and discuss the future of service management. If there was one key takeaway from my time at the conference, it was that artificial intelligence (AI) is the future of public service.

One of the multiple conference panels and side sessions that I attended was a presentation by Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at MIT and the co-author of the book, “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.”

During his presentation, Mr. McAfee discussed how advanced computing systems and technologies have led to the emergence of computer learning, AI and cognitive systems, and also how this emergence could bring about a change as significant and fundamental to our society as the Industrial Revolution. As he put it, “AI is going to be bigger than electricity.” I tend to agree with him—mostly because of AI’s ability to empower automation.

We’re already seeing enterprises and government agencies looking to automation as way to accomplish different goals. Enterprises see it as a way to cut costs and operate more effectively and efficiently. Government agencies see much of the same, but also see it as a solution to an HR and staffing issue that is somewhat unique to the federal government.

The federal workforce is rapidly “graying” with a large percentage of government workers approaching or at retirement age. Coupled with on-again/off-again hiring freezes, and you have a federal workforce filled with vacancies and struggling to keep up with workloads and the demand for citizen services. The end result is backlogs, service delays and, ultimately, angry constituents.

Automation can be the answer to government agencies. And AI can be the driving factor that makes automation more effective and more capable. With staff resources tight and backlogs mounting, the federal government can look to automate many of the processes that have traditionally been handled manually. This starts by identifying processes that can be done without human intervention, eliminating wasted steps, and working to automate them through new technologies, such as cloud solutions like ServiceNow.

And this is where AI, cognitive systems, and computer learning can come into play. By watching the interactions that constituents have with government employees, learning from the decisions that those government employees make and examining the actions they take, AI can effectively train itself to make the same decisions and take the same actions as human employees. Over time, the AI systems could effectively run the processes and make the same decisions. With a strapped federal workforce and in agencies facing large backlogs, AI could free actual human employees to focus on higher value tasks by automating and completing more basic ones.

Amazingly, we’re not far off from this being a reality. Companies, like ServiceNow, are investing in this kind of technology. Earlier this month, CSRA sponsored an Emerging Technology Day, which showcased extraordinary companies with next-generation technologies capable of revolutionizing the way the government operates. Two of the companies that presented and demonstrated their technologies at this event were utilizing AI in ways that could have a huge impact on federal agencies—Be Informed and Neva.

Be Informed has built a unique Intelligent Robotic Process Automation Platform based on cognitive reasoning that supports complex regulatory applications and automates knowledge work. By integrating dynamic case management, decision management and information integration, their platform reduces the cost of developing applications and enables organizations to operate faster and more efficiently—even in highly-regulated environments. This Be Informed video does an excellent job of explaining their platform, and discusses some of the ways that international governments are utilizing it to improve constituent service.

Neva has created a cloud-based AI agent for automating IT help desk support. This reduces the amount of time that IT and help desk employees need to spend with each individual ticket. The end result is shorter ticket times, less escalation and happier users. Here is an excellent video showing Neva's solution in action.

Both Neva and Be Informed illustrate the power of AI in service situations. Through cognitive reasoning and computer learning, AI is capable of effectively automating interactions that used to require humans. In the federal government—where resources are stretched thin—it could be a solid solution for faster service for constituents and cost savings for taxpayers.