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How GenAI and Custom GPTs Could Impact Government in 2024

New generative AI tools are poised to make an even bigger impact in state and local government in the year ahead. Jurisdictions need to understand their potential uses and how they will impact resident services.

hand holding a lightbulb that says GPT in front of a laptop
Adobe Stock/frank29052515
If January was any sign of things to come, 2024 will be the year AI infiltrates nearly every area of our organizations. While everyone was watching fireworks and waiting for the ball to drop on New Year's Eve, AI companies were planning some fireworks of their own. We have already seen significant product drops from three of the largest companies in AI: Microsoft, Google and OpenAI (ChatGPT).

Microsoft removed its 300-seat minimum for Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365; Google launched its next generation of AI technology, the Gemini suite of products; and OpenAI launched its custom GPT store. Each one of these will set the tone for what is coming in 2024, so let’s dig a little deeper and see what each one could mean for government organizations and why it's crucial to understand how they work.


Through its partnership with OpenAI, Microsoft has built AI technology into search, the Windows desktop operating system and, most recently, Microsoft 365. Copilot for Microsoft 365 launched late last year but it came with a minimum of 300 users, which put it out of reach for most organizations. That restriction was removed in mid-January which now makes it possible for any organization willing to fork over the $360 per year per employee to have access to this powerful tool.

So, what does this mean? In the short term, Copilot for Microsoft 365 puts generative AI directly into the products we use every day, such as Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Employees work with these tools every day and store large amounts of their data in Microsoft 365. Therefore, this will make it easier to use generative AI in day-to-day work and likely unlock numerous real-world use cases in your organization.

In the long term, as employees get more comfortable with generative AI, they will begin to find innovative ways to expand its use cases. In addition to using the tools for their own productivity, they will begin to build resources for others within the organization. Microsoft Copilot Studio will make it easy to build custom AI tools that will increase employee efficiencies, streamline processes and create new services that would have been too resource intensive previously.


When OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November 2022, many thought Google would be playing catch up. If that was the case, it didn't take them long. In December 2023, Google announced its Gemini suite of AI products, which consisted of three flavors: Ultra, Pro and Nano. The big differentiating factor of Gemini was that it was built from the ground up to be multimodal, meaning it was training on text, images, audio, video and code.

The other differentiating factor is Google Gemini Nano, a portable lightweight version of the Gemini model that can run on mobile devices. This is significant because mobile phones can now run AI services locally without Internet connectivity, creating an entirely new set of use cases not available in hosted models.

So, what does this mean? It means that every phone can become a highly individualized and always-available AI assistant. Samsung has already announced its S24 phone that has translation capabilities in over a dozen languages, and that is just the beginning. AI could significantly change the user interface and experience when it comes to interacting with government services. In the future, you may be interacting with your constituent's custom AI assistant, and that could have a significant impact on how we approach engagement and service delivery.


In late 2023 OpenAI launched a GPT builder that gave anyone with a paid ChatGPT plan the ability to create their own custom GPTs. Millions of GPTs were created within the first few weeks of launching this new feature, as it made creating a GPT amazingly simple. In early January 2024, they launched the GPT store, which makes it possible to share those custom GPTs with the world, or at least with paid ChatGPT users for now.

So, why is this important? In just over one year, we have gone from no one knowing what a GPT is to anyone being able to create their own GPT and share it with the world in a matter of minutes. GPTs went from nonexistent to a commodity in just one year. Imagine what will happen in the next three to five years. Governments will be able to build AI functionality into every one of the services it provides. Given that government typically plans in much longer cycles than that, we will have to change the way we evaluate and implement technology in response to AI. It is truly an exciting, yet also somewhat terrifying, time as these advancements are continuing at a rapid pace. Organizations and their employees will need to strive to keep themselves up to date with the ever-changing landscape so as not to be caught off guard or left behind.

The power of custom GPTs is already available to governments. Here are four examples (a ChatGPT Plus, Team or Enterprise license is required):
And the possibilities go beyond just bots to fill these municipal roles. Consider these ideas:
  • Uploading a jurisdiction's ordinances and allowing people to ask questions about them.
  • Providing a tourism GPT that helps people find activities to do around the city.
  • Creating an internal onboarding GPT for jobs that have a lot of turnover or seasonal hiring to speed up the onboarding process.
  • Putting all the organizational policies into a GPT so employees can ask questions about organizational policies.
  • An events GPT where residents could see city events and even submit events for consideration using GPT actions. 

As you can see, generative AI is going to have a significant impact on government organizations. The way we build and manage the services our citizens rely on, the way the citizens interact with those services and the way employees deliver those services are all changing.

That is the reality we operate in. Therefore, we must learn how to navigate it and, unfortunately, no road map currently exists. That means we must become educated observers and be able to adapt quickly. You can accomplish this by learning the basics, getting some hands-on experience and following trends. Ironically, the best way to learn these tools is to use them as a teacher and guide. You do not have to be an expert, but refusing to become knowledgeable about these technologies will negatively impact you and your organization’s future.

Tim Howell is senior IT manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG). He previously worked for the cities of Katy, Georgetown, South Padre Island and Hutto. During his tenure he helped transform these organizations with the use of technology and went on to receive praise, awards and recognition throughout the state of Texas for innovative and creative uses of technology. Tim serves as the chair of the AI Committee at NCTCOG, and has served as president of the Texas Association of Governmental IT Managers, on the state of Texas Information Technology Strategic Advisory Committee and various other committees both in the public and private sector.