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How generative AI can transform public services

How generative AI can transform public services

Generative AI is a branch of artificial intelligence that can create new content, such as text, images, audio, or video. It can learn from patterns, styles, rules and preferences, and generate novel and realistic outputs.

TEKenable Group Technical Director, Peter Rose and Group Managing Director, Nick Connors.

Generative AI has many applications in various domains, such as entertainment, education, art, and design, but it can also have a significant impact on public services.

Public services face continuous challenges such as limited resources, complex regulations, and high demand. The good news is that generative AI can help overcome some of these challenges by automating tasks, improving efficiency, reducing costs, and enhancing quality and its use has been approved by Cabinet, provided it follows the guidance on the use of AI in the public service issued by Paschal Donohoe.

In this article, we will explore how generative AI can help public services from central government to healthcare improve quality and increase service provision and examine the benefits and challenges of using this technology.

AI on your desktop

Accessing generative AI in a safe, private, and secure way does not have to be difficult. Microsoft offers co-pilots in Office 365 as well as Dynamics 365 which support the users in the activities below and more beside:

  • Document summarisation –Applications, reports, emails, and conversation transcripts summarised for quick review, discover key ideas, actions, decisions, etc;
  • Document writing – Idea generation (writers block), drafting text, reviewing text for clarity/style, age-appropriate versions (“explain to me like I am five years old”), etc;
  • Suggested responses ­– semi-automating the response to customer service cases, applications, and the never ending stream of email;
  • Presentation generation – AI can create a PowerPoint presentation from a detailed document or your high-level notes capturing and structuring key concepts;
  • Automating financial and other processes – Microsoft Business Central can use AI to automate bank reconciliation for example.

Unlocking institutional knowledge

Probably the most frequently encountered challenge TEKenable sees is around access to institutional knowledge. Every organisation of any significant size has around 70 per cent of its institutional knowledge locked away in documents and only around 30 per cent in structured databases such as a finance systems and CRM. Each person that leaves the organisation takes a part of that knowledge with them and new joiners are more and more challenged to acquire that knowledge.

To address that challenge, TEKenable has created an AI application called Chat With Your Documents, which, as the name suggests, allows users to hold a conversation with a curated and authoritative set of documents.

The ability to ask questions and receive answers from documents and other data sources is the next evolution of the search engine and unlocks knowledge that is presently locked away improving the user’s efficiency and providing information that can enhance the quality of their work.

We have seen Chat With Your Documents successfully applied to areas as diverse as HR policies, financial regulatory rules, software support, customer service, sales and, in our own case, providing information about TEKenable’s past projects to support public tender writing and remembering lessons learned from the past.

What are the benefits and challenges of using generative AI?

Generative AI has the potential to transform public services by offering many benefits, such as:

  • increasing productivity and efficiency by automating tasks and reducing errors and delays;
  • enabling greater service provision without increasing resources;
  • enhancing quality and satisfaction by improving accuracy, relevance, diversity, and creativity;
  • supporting decision-making and problem solving by providing insights, scenarios, and solutions; and
  • increasing engagement of users and stakeholders by offering personalisation and choice.

However, generative AI also poses some challenges. Generative AI is not suitable for autonomous operations other than in some very tightly defined domains. It is better suited to acting in a supportive role, assisting and recommending rather than actioning. This is the human-in-the-loop model with the AI referred to as a CoPilot.

TEKenable subscribes to a code of ethics that governs how we design and deploy AI services. This requires us to consider every aspect of the solution from the potential for bias to transparency and accountability. By doing so, we ensure that the AI performs as the best version of itself and complies with the Government guidelines and the EU AI Act requirements.

Conclusion

Generative AI is a powerful and promising technology that can transform public services. It offers many benefits, such as increasing productivity, reducing costs, enhancing quality, and supporting decision making. However, it also poses some challenges, such as ensuring reliability, security, ethics, accountability, and regulatory compliance. Therefore, it is important to use generative AI responsibly and wisely, and to balance the opportunities and risks of this technology. By doing so, we can harness the potential of generative AI to improve and increase the service provision for the public good.

The above text was reproduced from the interview published in Eolas on February 22nd, 2024.

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