When state and local governments invest in digital transformation, citizens reap the rewards. A former state CIO shares how.
If you've ever interacted with a chatbot on your state legislator's website or used your city's mobile app to find an available parking spot, you’ve experienced first-hand how state and local governments are digitally transforming how they interact with and provide citizen services.
Public agencies are increasingly adopting emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to streamline processes, save on costs, and improve the citizen experience. They've only just scratched the surface—and larger investments will be needed to keep pace.
Steve Emanuel understands that better than anyone. Before joining CGI as Director of Consulting Services in 2020, Steve spent more than 20 years leading IT organizations at the state and local level, including serving as Chief Information and Technology Officer for the state of New Jersey, Montgomery County, Md., and the city of Newark.
I spoke with Steve recently to get his perspective on AI and automation in the public sector, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Q: Why do you think government officials should prioritize investments in technologies like AI and automation?
A: It all starts with citizens' rising expectations. In the digital age, people increasingly expect their interactions with the government to be as convenient, efficient and accessible as the services they use in the commercial world. And public agencies can't meet those expectations if they don't modernize.
Secondly, the public sector faces a unique challenge: an aging workforce. Many workers are reaching retirement age, including those with the expertise needed to manage outdated, highly customized legacy IT systems. That knowledge is difficult and sometimes impossible to replace.
Finally, complex challenges like climate change and a global pandemic have highlighted the need for a fast, targeted response from government agencies. AI and automation are critical tools in helping governments gather and analyze the data they need to make informed decisions and provide better services to citizens while reducing cost and environmental impact.
Q: What are some tangible benefits of deploying these technologies in government?
A: Automation can dramatically improve the effectiveness and efficiency of workflow and business processes. It uncovers redundancies and errors, reduces the need for multiple handoffs, and accelerates the flow of information. The state of Ohio's "Baby Bot" is a great example. A few years ago, the state deployed robotic process automation software to determine newborn babies' eligibility for public assistance programs. Since its launch, the Baby Bot has provided thousands of newborns with immediate access to medical care from birth, dramatically cut the citizen wait time for access to public assistance, saved counties thousands of working hours, and closed gaps in Medicaid coverage for pregnant women.
These technologies can also help government agencies make more informed decisions about resource allocation. Public safety is a great example here. With AI and automation, police departments can identify patterns in crime data for a more proactive approach to policing, helping their forces get ahead of incidents before they occur. They can also use automation to reduce data entry and paperwork, freeing up resources to focus on more important things like community policing and investigations.
Q: What are some of the barriers to implementation?
A: Budget constraints are usually the top issue. Public officials rarely get elected based on promises of technology investments, so CIOs have a high bar to clear in making a pitch for funding. That's why it's critical that IT leaders align their organizational objectives with the agency's overall mission and strategy. They'll be far more successful when they can show a direct connection between technology advancements and the citizen experience.
Resistance to change is another challenge. This isn't unique to government, but public sector employees can be particularly reluctant to embrace new technologies. The best approach is to show people how automation and AI can help them—not replace them—by reducing low-value, inefficient work and freeing them up to focus on higher-value projects.
Interestingly, the solution to some barriers to implementation often lies in the technologies themselves. Take data privacy and security, for example—obviously a huge concern for public agencies. Rather than introducing risk, automation and AI can actually strengthen data compliance and privacy standards.
Q: How can CGI's expertise and services help governments exploit these capabilities?
A: Over the 40 years that CGI has worked with state, local and regional governments, we've developed deep expertise and a flexible, modular approach, which enables us to deliver quick wins that bring immediate value to the organization.
Our CGI Accel360 platform, powered by UiPath, is a key differentiator. It's a subscription-based platform that enables enterprise-wide automation. The UiPath market-leading business automation platform has everything you need built in: robotic process automation, natural language processing, machine learning, low-code/no-code apps, and more. I call it a "bot as a service:" a well-managed, hosted solution that reduces or eliminates concerns around start-up costs, implementation, staffing, data security and maintenance.
I'm also excited about our CGI Advantage ERP software for state and local governments. It's a mobile-first, cloud platform that optimizes HR services, budgeting, procurement and many other processes, vastly improving the citizen experience. We're currently building automation use cases to better support our clients, and we're introducing automation into key processes such as invoicing.
Q: How do you demonstrate the value of these technologies?
A: When implemented thoughtfully, AI and automation demonstrate their value quickly. The existing KPIs for any process should show a positive trend, such as faster time to completion and higher customer satisfaction scores. The public and private sectors are alike in that regard: It's all about the end user. When your citizens are happier, you're doing something right!
Interested in learning more about CGI's services and solutions for state and local government? Connect with us below.