Government entities boost AI investments but workers remain sceptical about the impact

Employees are uncertain if these innovations can be as effective as humans in completing tasks and are wary of the threat they pose to their roles, study finds

Government organisations around the world are continuing to invest in artificial intelligence technologies, in an effort to digitally transform their operations, but a majority of employees are sceptical about its impact, a study by Gartner has shown.

More than a third of chief information officers polled by Gartner plan to boost investments in AI and machine learning technologies in 2021, with chatbots the most widely deployed service.

However, these technologies are being viewed with a certain level of uncertainty, particularly their ability to be as effective as humans in completing tasks and the threat they pose to their roles, the Connecticut-based research company said in its report.

“Automation, insight and intelligence are all interconnected priorities for government leaders. But the operational and services delivery workforce are absolutely critical to the success of any attempts to automate or augment their ways of working," Dean Lacheca, senior research director at Gartner, said on Monday.

"Leaders can generate more acceptance by clearly linking the technology to practical outcomes that benefit government employees and support mission objectives."

Governments have been deploying AI-backed platforms to drive efficiency but the Covid-19 pandemic magnified the need for a more reliable and flexible systems that can withstand any unpredictable disruptions.

The UAE , which has invested extensively in AI and its related technologies, recently introduced a programme to train and equip government and business leaders with practical skills in an effort to prepare for the post-pandemic era.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has spurred the acceleration of digital innovation across the government sector around the world, presenting government leaders with new opportunities to use data and technologies to build trust, agility and resilience in public institutions,” said Rick Howard, research vice president at Gartner.

“While pandemic-related challenges will continue for some time, technology trends have emerged that address critical challenges in areas such as security, cost containment and citizen experience.”

Gartner's research shows that chatbots or conversational agents are on top of governments' AI adoption strategy, with 26 per cent saying they have already deployed them and a further 59 per cent expecting to deploy them within the next three years.

Chief information officers for government entities can also use hyperconnected public services – defined as the use of multiple technologies, tools or platforms to automate as many business and IT processes as possible – to develop highly automated, end-to-end business processes and public services requiring minimal human intervention.

However, a separate Gartner study reveals that employee scepticism is most prevalent among those who have not worked with any AI-backed solutions. More than half (53 per cent) who have worked with AI say it provides insights to do their job better, against 34 per cent of employees who have not used such technology.

Forty-two per cent of employees who have not worked with AI understand its importance, but only 27 per cent of them believe AI has the potential to replace many tasks. Meanwhile, just 17 per cent of the respondents said AI has the potential to perform skilled tasks.

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Senior executives in the public sector must address the early apprehension among the government workforce by showing how the technology helps them to getting their work done. Then continue to build confidence in the technology through exposure, use cases and case studies
Dean Lacheca, senior research director at Gartner

Among those who have used AI, 31 per cent believe it is a threat to their jobs, compared to 24 per cent of those who have not worked with it. However, 44 per cent of those who have used AI believe it improves decision-making, while 31 per cent said AI reduces the risk of making a mistake. Around 11 per cent think it made more errors than humans do.

As governments continue to tap AI to drive their digital agendas, leaders should educate their staff on the benefits of the technology, the Gartner report said.

“Senior executives in the public sector must address the early apprehension among the government workforce by showing how the technology helps them to getting their work done. Then continue to build confidence in the technology through exposure, use cases and case studies,” Mr Lacheca said.

Updated: October 11th 2021, 11:40 AM
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