The impressively intuitive chatbots that magically appear online, willing and able to help you, are not the only manifestations of artificial intelligence (AI), as noticeable as they are. Throughout government, AI is transforming constituent services of various kinds and helping agencies achieve new levels of digital nirvana.
It’s solving complex analytics problems and liberating employees from the drudgery of manual tasks. It’s charging you highway tolls when you don’t have an EZPass and there are no toll collectors about.
And, according to experts on Wednesday’s GovLoop online training session, entitled “AI for Everyone: How It’s Helping Us Get More Done,” artificial intelligence has even greater potential in the years ahead. More customized recommendations, automated data management and HR-system integration are on the horizon, for starters.
So what do tech laypeople need to know?
Data & Privacy
At the end of the day, everything is about the data, said Kaladhar Voruganti, Equinix’s Senior Fellow, Technology and Architecture, in the Office of the Chief Technology Officer. The lineage, explainability and fairness of data are critical to ensuring that AI technology performs effectively and fairly.
But feeding reams of personal information into AI systems raises valid privacy concerns, Voruganti said, and is one of AI’s main challenges. “More needs to be done, so people can say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on how their data is used.”
Before moving forward with any (or more) AI technology, an agency needs to consider what problem it’s trying to solve and who it’s looking to reach. “Focus on the business outcomes you’re trying to achieve in your agency,” said Bryan W. Schromsky, Verizon Wireless’ Managing Partner of Federal Government & Public Safety.
An organization needs to consider the scalability and flexibility of whatever AI solution it considers — because the biggest, brightest option might not be what an agency really needs.
A powerful AI system means little if agency staff doesn’t understand it. That’s why personnel training is so important.
Nathan Manzotti, Director of Data & Analytics at the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Centers of Excellence, urged agencies to “try to encourage a learning culture” and incentivize staff to upskill to fill knowledge gaps. He suggested using various freely available resources, including GSA’s AI Community of Practice, if accessing more custom-designed resources is a challenge.
The speakers offered other words of wisdom, including that:
- Low-code and no-code solutions are becoming more available, which helps democratize AI technology.
- The federal government currently relies more on AI solutions than state and local entities do, so there are plenty of opportunities at those two levels.
- Mandates could be a barrier to expanded use of AI products.
- People, in general, are looking for Amazon-like online experiences.
Artificial intelligence has wonderful potential, speakers said, but the technology should be seamless. As Voruganti noted, “The trick for AI is that people shouldn’t realize they’re using AI.”
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