Modernizing to Build Trust in Government
Machine learning and process automation help government agencies simplify and accelerate interactions with constituents, which strengthens the public’s trust, says Noel Loughrin, who worked in county government in Southern California for seven years before moving to the private sector. This Q&A explores how.
Machine learning and process automation help government agencies simplify and accelerate interactions with constituents, which strengthens the public’s trust, says Noel Loughrin, who worked in county government in Southern California for seven years before moving to the private sector. Loughrin is the strategic solutions manager for education and government with Laserfiche, a company that specializes in software for content management, process automation and data analytics.
How does modernization improve constituents’ trust in government?
Our smartphones allow us to navigate information and get quick answers. Similarly, modernization should simplify constituents’ lives. When you do that, you build trust. Let’s say a constituent makes a request for government service. You can use technology to send automatic updates about the request, which will give the constituent more peace of mind and help create trust.
Process automation technology can lighten the load on agency staff. How does this help with constituent trust?
Paper-based, manual processes tie down agency staff, pulling them in different directions all day. If we can automate some of these things, like sending an email about the status of a project, we save a lot of staff time, which can be used to strengthen relationships with constituents.
When I look back on my time in county government, it would have been nice to have more insight into activities across departments. And it would have been great to have more touchpoints with constituents so they could feel comfortable about the services I was providing.
How are machine learning and artificial intelligence improving the constituent experience?
We have a lot of machine learning tools for understanding the information coming into agencies. Capabilities might include prepopulating online forms to move processes along. These tools also increase consistency and accuracy because they reduce the risk of human error. Constituents can feel more secure knowing something they’ve submitted won’t have an error because we’re verifying and triple-checking the data.
We’re not saying we should let machines do everything. We just want to make work easier and remove human error.
What’s a real-world example of automation transforming interactions with the public?
One of our government clients has a chatbot on their website that makes it easy to deliver information to the public. Constituents can say, “Hey, chatbot, I want to apply for this program.” And the chatbot can query the agency’s back-end systems and ask the constituent for more information.
This all happens in the background to verify the person’s identity and answer their questions. They can find out if they are eligible for public services and better understand the program’s requirements. This keeps everyone more informed.
What should an agency consider when getting started with this technology?
Be sure to ask people about the challenges they’re seeing — especially those who interact with constituents the most. What kinds of frustrations do they experience when working with constituents on problems? Then, when you roll out your solution, your people are better informed about constituents’ needs. And that can help you build a solution that’s less cookie-cutter and more customized to your agency’s needs.