The role of Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector

EY international studies on Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the past few years have shown a very rapid evolution in the thinking of private companies on the subject

EY's international studies on Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the past few years have shown a very rapid evolution in the thinking of private companies on the subject. In one year, the conclusions indicated that AI was seen as interesting in the long term but not as an investment priority. In the following year, the overwhelming majority of companies indicated that they had projects already underway. The same is already happening in Portugal, with EY having completed several projects that allowed private companies to have a different understanding of their business, gain efficiency and reduce costs.

In a recent study carried out in partnership with Microsoft - “Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector” - EY concluded that two thirds of respondents saw AI as a digital priority. However, although many local, regional and national governments recognize the potential of AI, only 4% of public organizations surveyed have scaled it up to transform their organization. As a result, only 10% of organizations surveyed are using AI to solve complex problems and 9% are using it to significantly change the ways they work. And only 12% were using it to create significant value for external stakeholders, such as citizens and companies.

Artificial intelligence can do much more than improve government processes. When properly applied, it can be essential in responding to long-term global challenges and translate into better results for society in general. Research has shown that the adoption of AI is expected to bring four main benefits:
n Optimize processes to increase efficiency and productivity. For example, public administrations can improve their workflows by using AI to route inquiries, allowing them to automate redundant work and reduce errors.

n Transform services to make them of better quality - and develop new ones. In healthcare, for example, AI can improve results by analyzing individual patient information and supporting the identification of personalized treatments.

n Involve stakeholders to improve the experience of citizens and businesses. In transport, AI can improve the user experience for passengers by using historical and real-time data to forecast demand and ensure services are always available at the right time.

n Empower employees to obtain better results with less effort. For example, virtual assistants can reduce the time spent responding to basic surveys, while predictive analytics allows for more informed decision making.

Together, these benefits would allow public sector organizations to optimize processes with better results for citizens and businesses and to prepare them to face global challenges in the long term.

When it comes to AI, the issue of impact on jobs inevitably arises. AI-based technologies can ensure repetitive work, with high volume and little added value, allowing employees to focus on tasks that are more relevant to citizens and businesses. AI also provides insights to help your decision making on complex issues, instead of replacing professional judgment. Although it is true that some functions become obsolete as a result of AI, one of the biggest challenges in its adoption is precisely the scarcity of skills needed to implement projects in this area.

As the digital state becomes a reality, it will be the task of governments to ensure that their employees have the skills, mindset and connectivity to thrive, including those who work remotely. Likewise, they will have to improve the qualification of citizens to make the most of digital public services and the digital economy in general. And they will have to continue to work with the private sector to share knowledge and accelerate innovation in public services.

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