For most state governments, the use of artificial intelligence is more of an aspiration than a reality, according to a survey from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.
In August 2019, the Center for Digital Government and NASCIO, with support from IBM, surveyed CIOs’ motivations, plans and deterrents for AI adoption. The survey, “Delivering on Digital Government: Achieving the Promise of Artificial Intelligence,” yielded responses from 45 states. The primary respondents were CIOs and their deputies, CTOs and selected agency heads.
According to the recently released report, just 1 percent of those surveyed said AI was widely used across their state. Meanwhile, 19 percent of those surveyed said they were piloting AI; 13 percent were using AI but not in “core lines of business”; 31 percent were engaged in pilots or proof-of-concept trials; and 24 percent were evaluating proposals. Additionally, 12 percent of those surveyed said they were not using or planning to use AI.
Despite that, 49 percent of survey respondents see AI as “a powerful tool to analyze the large volumes of new and existing information collected across state departments and agencies,” the report states.
The report defines AI as “digital technology that draws insights from large volumes of data and may apply domain expertise, such as case management policies and IT troubleshooting knowledge, to improve decision-making and predict future outcomes.”
Current Use Cases for AI in State Government
State CIOs see chatbots and digital assistants as “low-hanging fruit” that can deliver quick benefits for help desks and other areas, according to the report. “This will have a significant impact on how we staff our call centers in the future,” Utah CTO David Fletcher says in the report.
State officials are drawn to AI and related technologies such as machine learning and robotic process automation in part because they “promise help in addressing rapidly evolving operational requirements and citizen expectations.” Indeed, 79 percent of survey respondents say they lack the resources to keep up with the demands of modern government, with 32 percent of that group “strongly” agreeing with that statement.
Texas CIO Todd Kimbriel says in the report that “states are beyond implementing e-government” and are “working toward digital government by digitizing backend data systems and automating the legacy, manual processes that are in place today. The digital assistant is a key way to demonstrate the benefits that come with digital government once we fully automate a resource.”
According to the survey, among respondents whose agencies currently use AI, 19 percent use it in IT, 15 percent in cybersecurity, 14 percent in transportation and infrastructure, 11 percent in health and human services, and 7 percent use AI to enhance the citizen experience.
How States Plan to Use AI in the Future
Looking ahead, survey respondents see AI making the biggest impact in cybersecurity (78 percent); fraud, waste and abuse detection and management (75 percent); and improving citizen-facing digital services (72 percent).
“Many state leaders point to chronic underfunding for cybersecurity initiatives or the fact that they lack cybersecurity talent,” the report states. “Looking forward, more states may turn to AI and machine learning to detect and mitigate cybersecurity threats.
A growing number of government organizations are already using the technologies to detect anomalies in network traffic and prioritize alerts from log data to assign security resources effectively.”
AI is helping North Carolina’s IT security staff quickly analyze the thousands of possible security threats that arise throughout the state’s agencies each day to identify the fraction that require immediate action, the report says. “With AI, we can narrow the tickets down to a manageable number,” North Carolina CIO Eric Boyette says in the report.
Delaware CIO James Collins says he envisions states being able to use AI not only to identify fraud in their health care systems, but also to improve patient outcomes.
“I saw the potential of this when Delaware recently launched its claims database,” he says in the report. “For now, it’s being used to respond to specific requests from agency customers. But when we combine such a large database with AI, I see the chance to better manage or even eliminate certain illnesses by analyzing therapies, treatments and outcomes. That’s how powerful AI could be when used appropriately.”
Fully 64 percent see AI having an impact on traffic management. Ohio CIO Ervan Rodgers thinks AI can help with smart city transportation initiatives. His state’s transportation department and other state agencies are collaborating to create a central information exchange using data from sources throughout the state to help predict changing traffic patterns and other transportation trends, according to the report.
The report notes that “smart city and traffic optimization strategies have been attractive testbeds for new ways to capitalize on large volumes of data and advanced analytics.”
AI can even help with public safety on roadways. Utah’s transportation department is piloting a program to apply machine learning to video feeds from cameras mounted along freeways.
“The goal is to use machine learning to detect accidents and then automatically dispatch responders to the locations as soon as the accidents occur,” says Utah’s Fletcher.