How artificial intelligence can redefine govt services

Published: July 22, 2019 1:35:14 AM

It can improve structural inefficiencies in the discharge of government services.

With the right kind of implementation, AI can impact thousands of lives.

By Devroop Dhar

The public sector has a crucial role to play in India’s growth story. It is through an effective and efficient public service delivery model that India can achieve inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development. In order to achieve this, the government has begun harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) in the delivery of public services such as education, health, social security and transport, among others.
AI is set to offer a competitive advantage over existing models of delivery of public services. Traditionally, the delivery models were simple, standalone departmental projects. However, the ability to use AI effectively has helped build more integrated and outcome-oriented models. So, it is critical for the government to support projects and improve government schemes through AI.

With increased adoption of AI, several existing jobs might become redundant. However, it may not result in job cuts in the government, rather it would lead to reskilling and creation of new jobs. It may also free up the time spent on mundane tasks, which can, in turn, be spent on improving quality of service to be delivered, with more time being given to planning, monitoring and reviewing.

According to the NITI Aayog, AI has the potential of adding $957 billion to India’s GDP by 2035, accelerating its annual growth by 1.3%. The NITI Aayog has urged various state governments to use AI in solving grass-roots problems; states have been asked to identify key tech-based projects that can be used to solve challenges in agriculture, education and health, among others.

AI can be leveraged by the government in multiple areas, like those that have a shortage of experts (for example, healthcare and legal systems), or those where a procedure needs to be evaluated to provide a binary answer or to identify predictable scenarios for a function or process based on historical data.

Leveraging AI will spawn significant changes, transforming many public service sectors in the future. Government services that can hugely benefit from the deployment of AI are:

-The government can have a chatbot answering complex but routine questions related to income tax and GST, based on wisdom from experts;

-A chatbot for citizens can address all queries about government schemes and benefits instead of people having to visit government offices or common service centres;

-Rule-based engines can be created by state governments for approval/rejection of applications;

-Robots can assist in healthcare, where AI can be used to improve diagnosis based on scans or X-rays or reports, powered by an engine created based on data from a large number of past reports;

-AI can play an important role in agriculture by providing information about soil types, nutrient levels, weather, etc. This is likely to help farmers significantly in taking informed decisions, increasing income and decreasing costs;

-Robots/drones, along with data from past scenarios, can be used for aerial surveys for disaster response/estimates;

-Machine learning can enable automated recognition for vehicle number plates and identification of potential cases of violation/crimes;

-Use of AI could release some time for government employees, which can then be utilised in improving quality of service, focus on audits/checks to help implementation of projects and schemes. For instance, even if a state government is able to free up 2-3% of an employee’s time on an average and reallocate, it can lead to a significant number of people being available to better review and monitor scheme implementation, and provide better services to citizens.

There is no denying that AI has the potential to improve several existing structural inefficiencies in the discharge of governmental services and pave the way for economic transformation in India. While a start has been made, a sustained all-round effort is needed; AI should become one of the top agendas for the leadership to be able to derive maximum benefit from it. With the right kind of implementation, AI can impact thousands of lives.

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