GenAI: Revolutionizing the future of government services

  • February 26, 2024

As a technologist working with government agencies to provide a better user experience for employees and citizens, Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominated many of my conversations in 2023. These discussions ranged from how these new technologies will transform how citizens interact with government to the very real risks these new technologies pose to our society.

I recently attended the 44th annual Economic Outlook hosted by the Executives Club of Chicago, an event I have regularly attended for the past two decades. While the topic of AI has been everywhere, I didn't expect the subject to be front and center in the economic outlook, with the panelist discussing the impact AI will have on the economy in the new year.

Panel moderator and syndicated columnist Terry Savage boldly stated in her opening remarks, "The real question in my mind is, ‘Has artificial intelligence become more dangerous than natural stupidity?’" This was followed by remarks from renowned economic expert Dr. Bob Froehlich, claiming that robotics, inclusive of AI and other automation, is one of the key areas that will impact the economy, stating, "It will change the world forever” because AI “doesn't sleep, it doesn't take a lunch break… it's clearly here to stay."

To me, 2023 was a year of discovery for the people outside of the technology space to get an initial education on both the benefits and potential risks of the broader adoption of AI technologies; 2024 will be the year we start to see implementations of these technologies to become mainstream. According to Gartner®, “82% of State and Local Government CIO’s state that they plan to implement Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning technologies by 2026 with 59% stating that they will implement Generative AI technologies.”*   These numbers are consistent with federal plans, as with 90% of Federal CIO’s planning AI/ML investments by 2026 with 71% focused on GenAI. This sentiment is further exemplified with the subject making the 2024 National Association of State CIO’s (NASCIO) top 10 priorities survey list for the first time.

Since Generative AI was introduced to the masses with ChatGTP in November of 2022, it's remained a news headline and a key conversation point with government leaders and corporate boardrooms. Most organizations are working on some pilot program around GenAI, and software companies are racing to integrate these new capabilities into their core products. The question now becomes how and where these new technologies start to manifest themselves.

GenAI will elevate the citizen experience

In December 2021, the White House issued an executive order (EO) on improving citizen experience. GenAI could become a game-changer for how citizens find information and apply for government services. Currently, many government websites are difficult to navigate, and often it’s easier to Google the information that we are looking for than find it on government websites. While many federal agencies are still focused on how they can meet the requirements of the EO, GenAI offers an entirely new way to interact with government. With these new technologies, a citizen can ask a question, such as ‘How do I renew my passport?’ and the step-by-step instructions will present themselves in a conversational format similar to having called and spoken to a live agent. We're already seeing this in action on the consumer side with Google and Bing searches. Where traditionally, a search would have produced several articles or websites to read to find an answer, a summary of those links containing the requested answer now presents itself to the user at the top of the page.

I was recently asked to meet with a federal agency working to improve the CX of their multi-lingual website. During this conversation, I encouraged them that while they still need to invest in the legacy websites CX, they also need to begin to consider how GenAI will change the way that citizens will interact with the agency going forward. One of the best features of these GenAI tools is that they are multi-lingual, meaning the agency will no longer need to translate their knowledge libraries. The large language models (LLM’s) behind GenAI translate multiple languages. This means all the content might be housed in English, but the user can ask their question in the language of their choice and get a contextual response back in that language.

It's my belief that over the next year we'll start to see searches start with a simple button on the agency’s home page that reads, “How can I help you today?”

GenAI will revolutionize office productivity

While many people have started to experiment with ChatGPT, the true power of this technology is going to emerge in the coming months as agencies begin to roll out the new Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365. This cutting-edge technology has been embedded into the workplace productivity tools that most government agencies use today, completely changing the way knowledge workers go about their day. These automations promise to allow more time to focus on helping citizens. Imagine after a Teams meeting having a meeting summary auto-generated, complete with a list of open items and next steps, all in real time; Microsoft has recently rolled out this technology. PowerPoint can use natural language to create, format and animate slides. It can even take text from a word document and create the presentation outline or vice versa, turning a PowerPoint into a Word document. Copilot promises to go further, giving users the ability to ask in simple language for trends and analysis of an excel file, or to embed data points directly into the text of an email. While this all sounds futuristic, the technology is here today.

A game-changer for IT customer services

AI is changing the way that IT teams deliver services both in supporting end users and in developing and managing business applications. Most recently, ServiceNow, the industry leading workflow management platform, released their new GenAI tool called Now Assist into the platform. With this new AI tool, routine tasks become simplified. Think about times being on the phone with a support agent and they need to transfer you to a more senior agent. With Now Assist, a short summary of what's taken place before the transfer is automatically generated, allowing the L2/L3 agents to get up to speed quickly and resolve issues much faster. At the end of the call, notes are auto-generated based on what took place, improving the employee experience. For developers, these new AI tools are writing clean, error-free code, allowing teams to focus on business logic and deploy new features faster. The AI can also write and execute test scripts, which is revolutionizing the way code gets written.

Changing how students learn while keeping them safe

While recent advancements in AI create a host of new challenges for educators, they also present new opportunities for learning. While I am writing this blog, my 17-year-old son is sitting next to me studying for his final exams. As he studies, I am watching him use the new Microsoft Copilot as a tutor, explaining Honors Physics concepts to him in real time. GenAI is breaking complex processes down into a step-by-step explanation of the concept and helps him to prepare for the exam without the help of a 1:1 tutor on the subject. While these new tools do create challenges around plagiarism and cheating, I'm also witnessing first-hand how they help to revolutionize how students learn.

AI also offers significant enhancements in campus safety. Most schools have implemented technologies such a CCTV systems, and some have added building access control and panic buttons. While these do add a layer of safety, they're still reactive and require a human to witness a potential threat and activate the system. With advancements in AI, we can begin to rely on machines to identify things such as a weapon in or around the school or people entering the building through a door that should have remained closed. AI would alert campus safety officers in real time of the potential threat.

I'm optimistic about the possibilities that AI brings to our society. My enthusiasm is kept grounded by my wife, who reminds me of the real fears that for every improvement that AI brings to work, business and personal lives, there are bad actors using this technology to find new ways to create havoc. While we need to remain vigilant in developing these systems, one thing is clear — this technology is here to stay, and it’s going to have a profound impact on our lives.

* Gartner, Infographic: 2024 Planned Technology Spend for CIOs in U.S. State and Local Government, 27 December 2023. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved

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Noel Hara

Noel Hara is an experienced strategist that infuses technology solutions across the public sector to help solve the most challenging problems. As Chief Technology Officer with NTT DATA’s public sector, he blends over two decades of experience in the public and private sector with an insatiable curiosity for technology and applications. Since the start of the global pandemic, Noel has been responsible for adapting the company’s offering portfolio to support clients in their shift to remote working and learning while continuing to support constituents through the expansion of digital government.


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