- The role of generative AI in the government sector
- Japan’s government to use generative AI to streamline administrative tasks
- UAE launches a new government website powered by generative AI
- Villagers in India use generative AI to access government services
We live in the digital age, where technology has permeated almost every aspect of our lives, revolutionising industries in the process and reshaping the way we interact with the world. One area where its transformative power is becoming increasingly evident is in the government sector. Governments across the globe are embracing digital technology as a catalyst for change, aiming to enhance service delivery, increase their efficiency, and promote transparency. The advent of digital platforms has given citizens greater access to government services and information, eliminating the need to wait in queues for hours on end and fill out an endless stream of cumbersome paperwork. Whether you are looking to apply for permits and licences, access public records, or make payments, these services are now conveniently available online, revolutionising the way governments operate and engage with citizens.
Furthermore, digital technology allows governments to gather and analyse vast amounts of data, enabling them to make better-informed decisions and providing policymakers with crucial insights into societal trends, resource allocation, and policy effectiveness. Of course, the benefits extend far beyond improved citizen services, with digital technology starting to reshape governance itself. Through open data initiatives and transparency measures, governments are fostering greater public trust and accountability. Citizens can now access vast repositories of public data, monitor government performance, and actively participate in decision-making processes. Additionally, digital platforms facilitate collaboration between government agencies, enabling seamless information sharing and coordination, resulting in more efficient and effective public service delivery.
“AI can dramatically change the way we search and the kinds of results we get, so you’re not just getting links to click on that you didn’t have to hunt through”.Ted Ross, Los Angeles Chief Information Officer
The role of generative AI in the government sector
Among many possible applications of digital technology in the government sector, the majority of our readers will probably be most familiar with chatbots. While they have undeniably proven very useful in recent years, providing citizens with instant access to all sorts of information, traditional chatbots nevertheless have some major limitations. Most notably, they lack the ability to understand natural language and often struggle to handle complex or unexpected queries that are outside the scope of their programming. Furthermore, since they typically rely on predefined rules and patterns to generate responses, traditional chatbots tend to produce robotic and repetitive output, often resulting in a poor conversational experience. To address these issues and provide citizens with more human-like and dynamic interactions, a growing number of governments are exploring the possibility of incorporating generative AI into their processes.
“AI can dramatically change the way we search and the kinds of results we get, so you’re not just getting links to click on that you didn’t have to hunt through”, says Ted Ross, Los Angeles Chief Information Officer. “You’re actually getting a written response that summarises it for you. That’s super-important”. Thanks to their ability to process vast amounts of data, generative AI models like ChatGPT can resolve some of the main inefficiencies associated with traditional chatbots. “Currently, government chatbots are similar to a traditional search engine”, explains Michael Ahn, an associate professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “It might point you in the right direction. Trained in government services, government regulations, and also on where citizens are coming from and what they need, then you can kind of see the difference. The difference is what you get if you use a traditional search engine versus using ChatGPT, which understands your needs, circumstances and purpose”.
However, the use of generative AI in the government sector is not without risks. To protect the privacy of sensitive citizen information and ensure equity in AI’s decisions, governments would have to introduce some new safeguards. As advanced as it undoubtedly is, even generative AI is prone to bias and has been shown to produce racist and sexist content, a reflection of the data it was trained on. To address this issue, governments would also have to include a thorough decision review process conducted by government officials. Even then, generative AI may not be suitable for all types of government decisions, especially those that require value judgement, such as those related to public welfare, homelessness, or others. For these types of decisions, humans will probably always need to be part of the decision-making process.
“In the future, AI could become a powerful tool to help make processes more efficient”.Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry
Japan’s government to use generative AI to streamline administrative tasks
The government of Japan recently made the first move towards the adoption of generative AI by forming a team tasked with formulating a strategy for the use of AI tools like ChatGPT to streamline administrative tasks. The team, whose members include representatives from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and the government’s digital affairs and privacy agencies, held its first meeting shortly after, in which they discussed the possible applications of generative AI within the government sector, such as drafting responses ahead of parliamentary hearings or anticipating questions in news conferences. In fact, some government bodies have already started exploring the use of generative AI. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries revealed plans to use ChatGPT to update online instructions on filling out applications for certain services, while the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications wants to use it to streamline work. “In the future, AI could become a powerful tool to help make processes more efficient”, says Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry. However, even if it is eventually implemented, generative AI will not be granted access to sensitive information, claim government officials. The government will also adopt concrete measures to protect against privacy breaches and other risks.
UAE launches a new government website powered by generative AI
Another country to officially embrace generative AI is UAE, whose Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) recently launched an AI-powered version of the UAE Government’s Unified Digital Platform, u.ae, which enables citizens to access nearly 3,000 services provided by various federal and local government entities. It’s the country’s most visited website and is used by more than 20 million people every year. It contains thousands of pages of information and is linked with all federal and local government websites, making it easy for citizens to access the information and services they need. After registering with their UAE Pass, the country’s national digital identity and digital signature solution, visitors will be able to seamlessly switch from one government website to another without having to register or sign up multiple times. The new AI-powered version of the website will use generative AI algorithms to deliver live interaction between the user and the platform and shorten the time it takes to find the information they need. “By introducing AI into the mechanisms of u.ae, we have taken another important step towards the digital future, through embracing the latest technologies to facilitate the lives of customers and enhance the concept of interactive government that puts the customer at the top of its priorities and provides an easy and fast user experience”, says Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, TDRA’s Director General.
Villagers in India use generative AI to access government services
In some countries, generative AI has already proven its value. India, for example, faces a unique problem. The country has more than 20,000 government schemes and welfare programmes, but the official websites and documents are usually written in English, which is spoken by just 11 per cent of the population. While some of the documents are also available in Hindi, even that language is only spoken by just 57 per cent of Indians, leaving many people unable to access those programmes, especially those living in urban areas. To address this problem, the Indian government recently launched a new AI-powered chatbot called Jugalbandi, which uses generative AI to translate information about government programmes from English to local languages. “We saw this Jugalbandi as a kind of ‘chatbot plus plus’ because it’s like a personalised agent”, explains Abhigyan Raman, a project officer at AI4Bharat, an open-source language AI centre that was involved in the development of the chatbot. “It understands your exact problem in your language and then tries to deliver the right information reliably and cheaply, even if that exists in some other language in a database somewhere”. The chatbot was first launched in Biwan, a small farming village in the state of Haryana. To access the chatbot, villagers just need to send a text or audio message in their local language to a WhatsApp number. The chatbot then uses speech recognition technology to understand the message and retrieves the information on the relevant programme from the government website, which it then translates into the local language. Then it sends the translated information in a message back to the villager. Since the chatbot’s initial launch, it has been upgraded to understand 10 out of 22 official languages in India. It also covers 171 government programmes.
The integration of generative AI into the government sector holds significant promise for improving administrative efficiency, enhancing citizen services, and fostering transparency. The limitations of traditional chatbots, which include their lack of natural language understanding and limited flexibility, can be overcome by leveraging generative AI models like ChatGPT. Governments worldwide are recognising the potential of generative AI and have started exploring its applications in various areas, from streamlining administrative tasks to facilitating access to government services. However, the adoption of generative AI in the government sector must be accompanied by safeguards to address privacy concerns and potential biases. Governments need to establish robust measures to protect sensitive information and ensure equity in AI’s decisions. While generative AI offers tremendous benefits, it should be seen as a tool to augment government operations rather than replace human judgement. By carefully navigating the challenges and leveraging the capabilities of generative AI, governments can pave the way for a more inclusive, transparent, and citizen-centric administration in the digital era.