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Could the Government use Artificial Intelligence?

Could the Government use Artificial Intelligence?
June 22
13:13 2017

William D. Eggers is the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Government Insights. Dr. Peter Viechnicki is a strategic analysis manager and data scientist with the center. This piece is adapted from their new study, How much time and money can AI save government?

Institutions run on data. Government agencies are no exception, and today this requires endless staff hours spent inputting, processing and sharing information across systems. The work needs to get done, so someone has to peck away at a keyboard, right?

Not necessarily.

Artificial intelligence—or AI—holds the promise of reducing or even eliminating much of the time-intensive, administrative work going on in government today. Staff resources can be freed up to do more meaningful work, giving people time to focus on creative projects and deal directly with citizens.

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How much time could be freed up by technologies powered by AI?

Official estimates vary widely, so we at the Deloitte Center for Government Insights conducted our own analysis. Combining information about time use for government tasks from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics with government employment rosters, we found if aggressively pursued, automation and AI-based technologies could free up huge numbers of labor hours.

At the high end, we estimate within the next 5-7 years, as many as 1.1 billion working hours could be freed up in the federal government every year, saving a whopping $37 billion annually.

Ultimately, AI could potentially free up 30 percent of federal employees’ time. State government savings in time and money could be similar percentages.

Of course, much depends on how aggressively the public sector invests in cognitive technologies. Lower levels of investment and support would yield much lower savings, perhaps as low as just 2 to 4 percent of total labor time.

The enormous potential of AI to liberate resources offers tremendous promise for public managers faced with limited resources and expanding backlogs. Over the next 5-7 years, AI will allow the automation of part of many government jobs. New demands will arise for the tasks still performed by humans, which will become more valuable.

Knowledge workers, whose jobs once seemed secure, are feeling directly threatened for the first time. This generates no shortage of fear and dread within a wide range of organizations and industries—and public-sector agencies are no exception.

In general, however, as long as they are willing and able to adapt, most government employees should be well-positioned to create more value than ever, augmented by cognitive technologies. Here’s how AI could be a win-win-win for government managers and workers, and the citizens they serve.

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