Yessica Jones has served as director of the Arkansas Department of Information Systems since November 2016, first in an interim capacity, and then officially appointed to the post in March 2017. Now with nearly six months under her belt, she’s talking chatbots and artificial intelligence in government, and offering practical tips to help states get mobile-ready.
1. A NASCIO study released late last year cited more than half of state CIOs saying that getting their apps mobile-ready is a high priority for 2017 — where does Arkansas stand with this?
This is a big priority in Arkansas. A 2015 estimate showed that almost 73 percent of adults and homes in Arkansas were wireless-only. That’s third in the nation only behind Texas and Wyoming. For children under 18 in such homes, Arkansas leads the nation at almost 89 percent.
With statistics like these, it was imperative for Arkansas to develop and implement a “mobile-first” strategy pointing to where we are now, where we want to go and how we want to get there. The mobile-first strategy was our starting point toward an enterprise approach to mobility. We want our focus to be geared toward making sure the user experience on small screens is just as accessible and usable as on a desktop.
2. What tips do you have for other states heading down the mobile-first path?
Understand your citizens. Conduct focus groups to learn what the pain points are for key groups of
citizens. Focus on the areas of greatest need first.
Design for the enterprise. Citizens don’t care what agency or division they are dealing with. They see government as one giant entity. They don’t care about state and local boundaries, either. Find ways to integrate information and services across these organizational boundaries.
Mobile-first doesn’t require a mobile app. Mobile apps are only one piece of the puzzle. Make sure that websites and applications are responsive and work on a variety of screen sizes. Make sure that online features don’t require technologies that don’t work on mobile.
3. Has Arkansas started using chatbots, and if so, how?
Arkansas actually launched one of the very first chatbots for government back in 2013. At that time, Gov2Go was an SMS chatbot that could answer basic questions like “Who is my representative?” and “Where do I go to vote?” The technology wasn’t quite there to make this feature valuable at the time, and it was replaced with the current version of Gov2Go in 2015. However, a new, smarter version of that chatbot is in the planning phases.
4. How can government leaders start to harness artificial intelligence to serve their constituents?
Customer service is a good place to start. Think about agencies that have large call centers or support operations that answer common questions over and over again.
See more features from the June 2017 issue.
Jessica Mulholland served as the Web editor of Government Technology magazine from October 2012 through September 2017. She worked for the Government Technology editorial team for nearly 10 years.