People typically do not join the public sector for financial gain. At least, I didn’t. When I first became an IT specialist for the British Army in the 1990s, what motivated me was the desire to make a difference and to improve the world in a meaningful way. The drive to help governments improve the lives of their people was why I joined Microsoft in early 2021 after serving in the military. I firmly believe that Microsoft positively impacts the world through technology. That’s because the company has a complete technology stack, from Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 to GitHub, and more, along with a global partner ecosystem and deep experience in security and compliance.
As part of the worldwide Microsoft for Government team, I help public sector customers and partners around the globe meet their goals for innovation, growth, and digital transformation. What drew me to Microsoft was the company’s mission: to empower people and organizations to achieve more. It is an important mandate, and I see it happening on a regular basis across our teams.
In our conversations with government and IT leaders, we recognize four areas of focus that are essential for governments to move efficiently and safely in their AI journeys to improve productivity, decision-making, and services. In this post, I’d like to share insights into each, as well as some essential steps to move forward.
Empowering governments with technology to help solve society’s biggest challenges
Announcing Microsoft 365 Copilot general availability and Microsoft 365 Chat
One unique feature of the generative AI revolution is that a huge amount of innovation and creativity is happening from the bottom up. When an organization embraces tools like Microsoft 365 Copilot and invites suggestions for improvement on processes and tools, it leads to widespread creativity. This can feed well into the development of early use cases—which are often bite-sized—making it easy to test, prove, and explore the technology without significant cost or risk.
Elsewhere in the organization, more complex and structured use cases can be developed using Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service to address major community challenges. Chatbots and virtual agents are already having an incredible impact for example, with translation in India, where English is the language of government, business, and public life, but is spoken by just 11 percent of the population. A simple mobile-device chatbot called Jugalbandi has bridged the linguistic divide by translating 10 of India’s 22 official languages, thereby servicing 171 government programs. And on the developer side, GitHub Copilot, your AI-powered programmer, is not marginalizing developers as some had initially feared, but rather making developers more efficient. In fact, 96 percent of developers say they handle repetitive tasks faster using GitHub Copilot, 88 percent say they are more productive, and 74 percent say they can focus on more satisfying work because of it. 1
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Key to success: Put AI into the hands of as many people as possible, and begin planning initial use cases to explore the impact of various approaches.
Governments are excited at the prospect of new tools that empower employees to make a bigger impact in areas ranging from delivering coordinated care for vulnerable people to driving criminal investigations leading to more successful conclusions. But the question of skilling and training is one that typically gives leaders pause. In addition, people often worry that AI will replace their jobs when the truth is closer to the idea that the jobs will go to people who embrace AI.
Governments should explore how best to empower employees with the tools, technology, and support they need to do meaningful work. A good start is to provide baseline training on AI essentials by role, as offered by Microsoft Learn. Then, simply make the basic tools and capabilities available for people to explore and experiment with. By encouraging employees to leverage AI within safe and carefully defined guardrails you not only alleviate fears about AI but also unlock your best source of creativity in the organization: your people.
Key to success: Develop a workforce education and adoption plan that suits your culture and AI goals, and work with a Microsoft partner to tailor it to your specific geographical and cultural requirements.
For many governments, generative AI presents the most compelling reason to complete their digital transformation and modernization efforts. Many organizations are still focused on hybrid cloud solutions, which can incur significant costs in maintaining legacy systems. To unlock the power of AI, the magic happens in the cloud. That means a government’s best bet is to move as quickly as is feasible to the hyperscale cloud environment. The Microsoft Cloud provides the architecture to provide a broad range of services to different agencies with divergent requirements, and yet it gives each one flexibility in where and how to manage their data and services.
To accelerate this, Microsoft for Government provides a set of cloud services that can be tailored to meet the specific needs and requirements of government agencies, especially with regard to building more resilient and sustainable operations.
Key to success: Prioritize completing your modernization project to enable the fundamentals of generative AI.
My conversations with government leaders about AI usually start with questions surrounding data. How can they make their data available to AI and also protect it? Who owns it? How do they ensure privacy, access control, and compliance? And above all, how do they keep it safe while using it in these new, innovative ways?
Security is the paramount consideration, as government agencies are among the most targeted sectors by nation-state cyber attackers worldwide.2 That’s why the Microsoft secure-by-design approach to the cloud is so important. It means security is built in, protecting data and services at the core. The Microsoft Cloud is designed to easily adapt to local compliance requirements (for example, as mandated by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union or the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) in the United States). Microsoft and our partners work with customers to ensure that the proper guardrails are in place.
Introducing Microsoft fabric: Data analytics for the era of ai
Another key concern is making data available. Until recently, this meant categorizing all your data, structuring it, and ideally putting it all in one place. However, with Microsoft Fabric, these and other data issues are solved. Fabric is a new unified, end-to-end, analytics platform that brings together all the data and analytics tools that organizations need. Fabric integrates technologies like Microsoft Azure Data Factory, Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics, and Microsoft Power BI into a single unified product, empowering data and business professionals alike to unlock the potential of their data and lay the foundation for the era of AI. In essence, it makes it easier to work with data while keeping it safe and compliant.
Key to success: Review your security and compliance requirements, and evaluate a unified data platform to get the most out of your data.
AI is changing the way we live. Microsoft is helping governments around the world to undergo their AI transformation journeys using the hyperscale cloud and our range of innovative AI services.
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Source: Microsoft Industry Blog