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How AI Can Help Government Deliver Better Outcomes

Alexis Bonnell, Senior Business Executive and emerging technology evangelist for the Public Sector at Google Cloud, shares how government agencies can use artificial intelligence to optimize workflows and improve service delivery.


How can AI positively transform the way we work, especially in the public sector?
Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen a lot of different ways public servants are using AI to help them meet their mission and transform the constituent experience. AI can surface information insights more rapidly and at scale, and what’s really interesting is that it can help agencies translate, “gov speak” to “people speak.” AI can build that connective tissue between how people speak and how they actually live their lives and look for information, versus how government has organized it. Also, our public servants are burnt out. They’ve been doing heroes’ work over the last year and a half. Now, they’re harnessing AI to augment their workloads, whether it’s using these tools to process invoices, do research or surface information. AI is empowering public servants to spend their time where they have the most value.

How can AI work together with the cloud to drive digital government?
The pandemic taught us the importance of having information agility, or access to relevant data to make decisions. The cloud maximizes information flow. Once you empower that information flow, then tools like AI can really complement it. In hybrid workplaces, for example, we can transform that information flow into productivity tools, such as Google Workspace. During the pandemic, many public servants used low-code or no-code tools to move information from their email or document storage into more active interaction. AI and the cloud together also can be used for sentiment analysis to really hear from your customers. AI is really about optimizing your information flow and optimizing your decision structures — and it’s not something you have to start from scratch. You can connect an API from an existing system to feed information into another system or reuse something someone else has created to get you there faster.

What are some of the primary AI use cases for government?
Document AI, which digitizes a range of government forms, is one great example. This type of automation can really benefit departments like finance and procurement. Research is another area. You can create environments where you can more easily share data, add AI through natural language processing and then query information. Virtual career centers, fraud detection and supporting unemployment assistance through call center AI are other examples. There’s no shortage of wonderful ways AI has already been applied.

What are some cost-effective and simple ways governments can integrate AI into what they do?
With AI, sometimes there’s a perception that it’s going to be more expensive or take much longer than it actually does. A lot of public servants might be further along with the use of AI than they think. An incremental approach can be effective. Using information from FAQs for chatbot applications is a wonderful starting place for AI. Leveraging AI in this way — what we refer to as call center AI — can free up staff time so they can focus on something more complex. At the same time, agencies also need to navigate their risks and be intentional about the fact that there will be trade-offs. They should be prepared to take little steps instead of big, risky steps.

How can agencies ensure the technology investments they make today serve them well in the future?
It’s important to understand that we’re all in the information business — it’s not just Google that needs to be a data-first organization. You need to discover the vibrant information that matters to your organization and understand how you can collect it, surface it, store it and make it as agile as possible. Go into a technology moment with the intent that you’re building something that will change with you. You need something that can change with your mission, change with the next policy, the next law, or the next set of resources. The importance of building for change and adaptation is what many of us learned from the last year. We now know the only constant is change.