AI and robots in government? The benefits are clear

Following the publication of a government-commissioned report that has highlighted how the UK is well placed to become a world leader in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), Mark Barrenechea, CEO at OpenText, has provided insight into the impact of AI on the workplace – and particularly in the public sector.

The independent report Growing the Artificial Intelligence Industry in the UK wraps up multiple proposals including:

  • boosting the number of people with AI skills by introducing an industry-funded masters degree programme and other conversion courses.
  • helping organisations to understand how AI can boost their productivity and allow them to make better products and services.
  • ensuring that people and organisations can rest-assured that there data is safe and secure. The report also suggests that data should be made available to more organisations.

On the importance of helping UK organisations understand how AI can boost their productivity, Barrenechea said: “Thanks to parallel processing, big data, cloud technology, and advanced algorithms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming more powerful. Recommendation engines and robo-advisors are becoming a reality in financial services. The analysts are jumping on board, with Gartner forecasting that 50% of all analytical interactions will be delivered via AI in the next three to five years. These are impressive numbers. But how will these investments pay off for the enterprise?

“Understanding cognitive systems, big data analytics, machine learning technology, and AI – and how to leverage them – will be critical for survival. In the short term, these technologies will give organisations faster access to sophisticated insights, empowering them to make better decisions and act with agility to outpace their competitors.”

The impact of AI on the workplace and productivity

Barrenechea continues: “This Digital Revolution will bring an increasing reliance on self-service technology, machine-to-machine communication (M2M) and artificial intelligence. These will completely transform the workplace as menial tasks, and some non-routine jobs, are digitalised through robotics and process automation.

“Every job in every industry will be impacted by machine learning. Many jobs will disappear through automation and others will change significantly as the enterprise becomes more automated and intelligent. Over the next few years, some of us could be answering to robo-bosses.

“From a productivity perspective, we spend a third of our time in the workplace collecting and processing data – AI could all but eliminate this work. M2M communications will enable machines to process data and make decisions based on this data as we move toward more intelligent, cognitive systems. In many cases, the intelligence these systems deliver will be more accurate, immediate and safer than humanly capable.”

Virtual workforces?

Interestingly, in a 2017 survey of 2,000 UK respondents, OpenText found that a significant number of UK consumers (42%) believe their job could be replaced by a robot in the next 30 years, while a quarter (25%) think this could happen within the next 10 years.

The younger generation of workers are most likely to believe their jobs could be replaced by robot technology, with 1 in 5 (19%) 18–24 year olds saying they sometimes or frequently worry about the prospect.

Robo-advisors in government

Of particular note to those in the government technology sector, the research also discovered that two thirds of UK citizens (66%) believe robots will be working within government by 2037, with 16% thinking this could happen within the next one to two years.

Those surveyed did not fear this introduction of robot technology in government. In fact just over one in four (26%) UK citizens think robots would make better decisions than elected government representatives.

Despite believing robots would make better decisions, 16% said they would still want humans to make the final decision. When asked which government functions could be better performed by robot/intelligent automation technology, one in ten UK citizens (10%) said robots would make better decisions on the economy than humans.

Just over a third (35%) of UK citizens, however, do not feel as though robots would be able to assess the cultural aspects when it comes to making a decision.

When asked about the biggest benefits of the introduction of robot technology in government, the research revealed that:

  • One in five (20%) UK citizens think there would be less admin and form filling to complete as the result of introducing robot technology into government
  • ‘Reduced waiting times’ would be the biggest benefit – nearly a quarter of UK citizens (24%) identified this as an issue robots could help improve
  • Nearly one in five (19%) believe there would be fewer errors in government processes

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