SEATTLE – According to experts and a state official who spoke at an event here this week, the state government’s interest in artificial intelligence technology is growing.
Nelson Moe, Virginia chief information officer, said he and his team see opportunities to build predictive analytics into government agency workflows and that AI technology can help identify waste, fraud, and abuse, as well as aid decision-making in Administration could help areas from finance to transport.
“We want to take it across the value chain,” Moe said during a conference the National Association of State Chief Information Officers held here this week.
He noted that Virginia recently accelerated the implementation of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to help process jobless claims. Moe said the technology has reduced the time it takes to review certain unemployment information from hours to minutes.
The state health department uses RPA technology to go through lab reports, he also said. While it’s not the same as artificial intelligence, RPA is seen as a kind of step in that direction.
Bruce Tyler, a senior partner at IBM, whose portfolio includes AI as well as state and local governments, said high-volume, high-labor processes are the types of areas where governments should consider AI or machine learning technology.
AI usually gives rise to a lot of concerns. For example, there is a possibility that inaccurate data could result in someone being denied permission to work on a government program they should have access to, or what the future holds for government employees who could end their jobs when machines stop working take over .
The use of predictive analytics as a decision-making aid in law enforcement and criminal justice – for example for granting bail – is a particularly sensitive issue.
However, Joseph Morris, e.Republic’s deputy chief innovation officer, described how some of the fear and concern about the technology among state officials seems to have decreased in recent years.
He shared survey results based on feedback from around 35 states and said that over 60% of states reported that they were using AI. The pandemic has led many states and local governments to adopt technologies such as “chatbots” to answer citizen queries online. Morris said states are now showing an interest in going further.
Looking ahead, according to Morris, potential targets for future government investment are robotic process automation and the use of advanced technologies like AI and machine learning to support call centers as well as support cybersecurity.
Challenges in adopting this type of technology include states lacking staff or contractors with the skills to adopt it, existing computer systems that are severely out of date, and the need for a clearer framework for the use of AI and machine learning .
Another problem that Morris pointed out is that many of the proposed uses for the technology so far have come from industry rather than agencies.
In Virginia, Moe described plans to develop artificial intelligence technology that his department could offer as centralized services to other agencies across the state government to aid their operations. However, he stressed that there would be no mandate to use the technology.