It was only back in 2020 that I was working in the public sector, performing a common task in a very outdated way. Each week, I was responsible for delivering a report that pulled together data from a few dozen agencies. I would export a table from a dashboard onto a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, write a summary of what it all meant, and then send it off by email. The process may not have been perfect but, in the context of enormous complexity, it worked.
Today, when I talk to government customers about their needs, there’s incredible excitement about how AI can transform their operations and services in ways that will make my old weekly reporting process obsolete. Microsoft has a compelling vision for empowering governments with technology that helps solve society’s biggest challenges, and we’re working with customers around the world to achieve outcomes across the full scope of government needs.
Government customers are excited about generative AI’s potential to not only save them money through new efficiencies, but also to innovate on personalized services. The development of new tools and solutions will profoundly improve the effectiveness of employees and budgets in the long run.
Take, for example, a digital twin of a bridge. Using real-time data from sensors and other sources, a digital twin lets an agency monitor a bridge throughout its lifecycle, as well as run simulations, perform inspections, and plan for the future.
AI is redefining what digital twins can do. At the core, they process data from multiple sources with analytics and machine learning and apply insights back to the digital copy. It is likely that governments will employ AI-enhanced digital twins for such activities as infrastructure maintenance, developing sustainable, low-carbon megacities, better public access to real-time data, and more.
When we talk to government leaders about how they can begin to explore AI, they inherently understand that generative AI can help their organizations empower their employees and create new solutions. The most common question they ask is, “Where do I start?”
This leads to a conversation about data. Having spent time in government, I know firsthand that governments typically sit on mountains of data. Some are well-structured and ready to use. However, other data is often out of reach and unavailable, residing in spreadsheets, unstructured databases, and documents. Still, more is constrained by regulatory or compliance requirements.
Removing the data bottlenecks is a long-term challenge. A key step is investing in cloud-based infrastructure which is the foundation of a data platform. Put another way—the best way to prepare for AI is to complete the digital transformation journey.
For example, the Municipality of Alkmaar in the Netherlands is creating a digital twin that is transforming its ability to track and plan infrastructure projects across the city. City leaders then correlate those projects with operational data such as road congestion and electric vehicle charging stations. This empowers the city council to make more informed decisions and enables officials to better track and operate public infrastructure.
In Canada, the City of Kelowna is using generative AI to help residents access services and better understand regulations around building permits, thereby streamlining the process to begin construction. The city combined this with a focus on transparency, ethics, and security to build public confidence in solutions.
Transforming an entire data estate into a single, vast, overarching project is challenging for most governments. A more practical approach is to start small and focus on realistic use cases. Identify a specific use case that delivers a clear outcome and supporting data sources. This is particularly important in government, as transformation projects often require as much effort on the policy, process, and stakeholder consensus sides as on the technology side.
With the infrastructure in place to expand and the momentum gained from a short-term success, governments can add additional use cases at a quick pace, and thoughtfully plan for an AI-ready data estate. This allows organizations to make incremental investments that reduce risk and give them the flexibility to address new opportunities over time.
A good example of this is the Cornwall Council in England, which provides a wide range of services to more than 570 thousand citizens. They brought together their core data assets—people, places, and money—to enable vertical reporting across departments and organizations while also eliminating inefficiencies. Beyond those immediate benefits, the project positioned them to innovate on important new use cases, such as generating a “golden record” for each Cornwall resident.
Governments around the world are embarking on and continuing their unique digital transformation journeys. These initiatives will change the way governments operate and deliver services. They now also provide the foundation on which transformative tools like AI can be adopted. To get started, governments should focus on use cases that will provide short-term impact and rely on data that is readily available, either from internal sources or third parties. By starting small, governments can gain the momentum they need for larger-scale transformation and adoption of tools like AI.
Visit the Microsoft for Critical Infrastructure page to learn more about how we’re helping governments transform the way they operate and serve people.
For further resources and to learn more about our offerings, visit the Microsoft for Government website or get in touch with your Microsoft sales representative.
Empowering governments with technology to help solve society’s biggest challenges.
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Source: Microsoft Industry Blog