By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

151_terminator copy.jpgIn a society where self-driving cars are actually in progress and movies like Her are not completely unthinkable, it’s easy to feel fearful when we speak of automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Although we don’t realize it, both AI and automation are already a part of many people’s daily lives. For example, everyone would probably agree that there’s nothing wrong with asking Alexa to play your favorite song, setting an away message on your email, or engaging a bot to really challenge you in chess.

But mention these similarly helpful tactics in the same breath as “government practices,” and everyone’s nerves get a little tender.

AI or Automation? Let’s Be Clear

Judging by the continued debates, pushbacks, and horror movies, many people probably envision both technologies to be physical robots (think Rosie from the Jetsons, only not as sweet), chasing government staff and officials out of their offices, and reprogramming communities to serve their evil demands.

Well that is definitely not the goal of either technology, it is actually a very extreme illustration of AI. Not the evil-taking-over-the-government part, but that AI technology is developed to learn and mimic human behavior, and apply it in appropriate, positive situations.

Automation, however, is exactly what it sounds like: transforming a historically manual process into an automatic one. The stark difference between this and AI is that humans drive the automation process. You tell the technology where to always send or file a specific email, and the automation will continue to do that, and nothing more. Unlike our kids, pets, or AI, automation is very obedient.

Technology Takeover? More Like Technological Teamwork  

As the government begins to toss technology innovation ideas around, it’s critical that officials and the public understand why and when it’s a good idea to apply these processes.

A recent Route Fifty article was speaking to some of the successful integrations of AI and automation already in government. Mentioning the IBM Center’s “Envision Government in 2040” series, the article cited a recent report by the IBM Center stating that The Bureau of Labor Statistics is already using AI to facilitate a survey coding process. The article reported that the bureau “improved both the quality and efficiency of the work,” and “employees are able to focus on more complicated cases that require human judgment.”

You see, most technology is not coming to replace your desk – it’s simply taking care of tedious “grunt work” so you can continue to make real, human impact. And, unlike some summer interns, it’s never late to work and can’t talk back.

I Think You’ve Already Met

You may not realize it, but many people in government offices, law firms, and courts are already harvesting the benefits of automation. If your organization uses an ECM (electronic case management system) or EDM (electronic document management system), you might find that your office is more productive than that of or similar agencies. Because cases and documents are electronically searched for, filed and routed, you never have to think about things like snail-mailing, paper filing, or digging through cases for information.

ECMs and EDMs are actually becoming a very common, well-received form of automation in justice, especially among prosecutors, courts, lawyers, and law enforcement, to expedite justice for victims.

Besides the courts, these systems are helping government agencies of all stripes whether it is managing permits, vital records, agendas, public works or finance and HR.

If you’re interested in learning more about automating your government agency’s paper flow, you should check out this page!

Coming to a Town Near You (Hopefully!)

Already dealing with the effects of car-sharing services, pay-by-phone integrations, and an app for everything, government officials are foreseeing a major disconnect with their publics if they do not continue to stay on top of practical technology issues and advancements.

This is the exact reason that the National Governors Association recently developed “NGA Future,” an initiative to prepare for the incoming wave of technological innovation. The goal is to educate legislators about certain technological areas so they can create policies around any potentially disruptive inventions on the horizon (looking at you, self-driving cars!).

Hand-in-hand with better policies, governors are also hoping to add some new tools to their toolbox by utilizing any innovations that might help them better run their offices, serve constituents, create new jobs and, ultimately, grow their economies.

Don’t Fear Because Automation is Here

Because it happened so fast and integrated so smoothly, it’s difficult to believe that automation and AI aren’t on their way in – they’re already here! And, when applied appropriately, these technologies are making everyone’s lives easier by taking care of the tedious work and leaving human-element decisions to real people.

So as the government continues to leverage AI and automated processes, it’s critical that we stay informed about the technologies that are improving our lives. So let’s start by discerning between the benefits that real-life automation and AI are providing, and the fiction-based plot of a horror movie.

Which benefit of a more streamlined government process are you most excited about?


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