More than meets AI

Artificial intelligence could help federal employees better focus on their agencies’ core missions, but leadership will must step up to manage that change.

AI government

The embrace of artificial intelligence has come quickly in government. In May 2017, Congress established the bipartisan Congressional Artificial Intelligence Caucus, and members have since introduced numerous pieces of AI legislation. More recently, the administration launched the American AI Initiative through a February 2019 executive order, and the Department of Defense released its own strategy on how to incorporate AI into national security. As government use of AI evolves, agency leaders will look for pathways to capitalize on opportunities, and the workforce will need new technical and social skills to succeed in AI-augmented workplaces.

A new report -- More Than Meets AI: Assessing the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Work of Government -- aims to assist in that effort. Produced by the IBM Center for the Business of Government and the Partnership for Public Service, the report addresses how government can best harness AI's potential to transform public sector operations, services and skill sets.

The report draws on insights from a series of roundtables with government leaders to explore pressing issues surrounding AI, share best practices for addressing solvable challenges, and work toward an implementation roadmap for government to maximize the benefits of AI. More specifically, it finds that AI could enable agencies to fulfill their numerous roles efficiently and effectively by reducing or eliminating repetitive tasks, revealing new insights from data, driving better decision-making, improving customer service and enhancing agencies' ability to achieve their missions.

AI could help federal employees focus on core responsibilities related to their agencies' missions and spend fewer hours on administrative duties. AI-assisted federal workers are likely to have more time to deliver services, interact with customers and perform other mission-related tasks. That said, agencies will need to enhance their digital and data literacy and learn how best to use AI and related technologies to work with citizens effectively.

The report focuses on three areas of impact that the experts agreed agencies will need to consider and manage: a transformed workday, the potential for personalized customer service, and the increased importance of technical and data skills.

AI will transform the federal workday

Automating administrative tasks will be one of AI's initial benefits. Over time, federal employees will spend less time on repetitive administrative work and more of their workday on tasks that are core to their agencies' missions, from mitigating hazards in workplaces to following through on complicated applications for grants or other government services. Agency political leaders and senior executives will have to aggressively manage change if AI transforms the federal workday as foreseen.

The report recommends two paths for agencies:

  • Leaders should communicate with employees early and often about the potential of AI to disrupt and alter their work. Agencies should determine the extent to which the workday changed for employees, which types of agency work AI helped these organizations accomplish, which tasks were automated successfully, and what kind of work employees might start doing in place of current, repetitious tasks that AI could perform; and
  • The Office of Management and Budget should focus on AI in the context of cross-agency priority goals, showing the federal workforce the "art of the possible." Through CAP goals, OMB and agencies should focus on government-wide areas of concern where AI could improve mission delivery, and monitor progress made toward the CAP goal to demonstrate AI's value to agencies' missions.

AI will enable more-personalized services

If AI decreases time spent on clerical work and increases the amount of information that can be collected and analyzed, employees could focus more of their time and attention on customer service and tailor services to the needs of individuals. As AI enables employees to focus more on the customer, federal agencies should help employees improve their customer service skills.

The report recommends two paths for agencies:

  • Federal employees should receive training that emphasizes skills for handling interactions with agency customers with the help of AI, especially "social literacy" skills such as active listening, communication, critical thinking, negotiation, and persuasion; and
  • Agency recruiters and hiring managers should assess job applicants for the skills listed above. Some digital tools already enable hiring managers to assess job candidates for these capabilities. For example, USA Hire measures social literacy through decision-making, interpersonal skills and reading comprehension.

AI will increase focus on technical and data skills

Federal employees in the future will need new skills to succeed in an AI-enabled world, including technical, digital and data literacy. As AI becomes more ubiquitous in federal workplaces, the federal government should emphasize expertise in technical, digital and data skills.

The report recommends three paths for agencies:

  • Sufficient funding should be provided for AI and related technical training. Federal employees will need extensive and ongoing training in technology, digital skills and data analysis to succeed in an AI workplace;
  • The Office of Personnel Management should consider establishing an AI occupational series in line with the proposed AI in Government Act of 2018, which directs OPM to address this in focusing on AI-related tasks; and
  • OMB should work with the General Services Administration to establish a team for AI talent similar to the U.S. Digital Service, governed by rules that make it easy to hire top AI talent from the private sector for time-limited stints in government to help federal agencies that need AI expertise.

Going forward, government agencies will play a crucial role for other sectors adopting AI. For example, government can take the lead in ensuring that malicious actors do not exploit AI-powered algorithms. This essential role underscores the need for government to become a responsible user of the technology, embed ethics and transparency in AI implementation, and translate its experience with AI into guidance for other sectors.

Every part of government plays a role in ensuring that the transition to an AI-augmented federal workplace is as smooth as possible and that federal employees have the skills to thrive. Hopefully, this report's research and recommendations will spark some of the needed conversations to help government do just that.

Other contributors to this article: Claude Yusti, Tatiana Sokolova, and Alayna Kennedy from IBM, and Peter Kamoscai, and Katie Malague from the Partnership for Public Service

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.