Avatars, Bots, And AI – Emerging Tech For Digital Government

In a new era of fiscal belt-tightening, the combination of technological innovation and transformational digital processes in customer engagement has become a specialized mission for many government agencies.

Government agencies are faced with the challenge to keep pace with rising expectations from the public to deliver the same level of service received in the private sector or, better.  Consequently, federal agencies have integrated service metrics from commercial best practices and are looking for companies with industry customer relations experience to model their outreach programs.   They are recognizing that industry metrics, based on proven consistency, efficiency, and quality of services, allows for a more predictable allocation of capital resources. It also translates to lower cost for federal agencies combined with deeper and more flexible insights into data for improved citizen engagement.

In their analysis “Market Trends: Digital Government Offerings That Engage Citizens and Build Long-Term Sustainability Will Differentiate Providers” Gartner affirms the industry customer service model and characterizes this emerging trend of digital customer service in government as “Delivering Consumer-grade citizen expectations and creating opportunities to engage citizens as informed customers and to increase service utilization.”

The new technologies behind citizen engagement do correlate (in a whimsical sense) to what was orchestrating behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz. Forrester analyst Brian Hopkins in his blog “Forrester’s Top Emerging Technologies To Watch; 2017-2021” envisions systems of engagement technologies, including Internet of Things software and solutions, and Intelligent agents: bots, digital assistants, and robotic process automation that will allow for real-time citizen interaction and management. Systems of insight technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and Customer Journey Analytics will be a driving force around these intelligent agents.

A new era of technological innovation fueled by the private sector has also benefited government citizen services by enhancing efficiencies, streamlining processing, and embedding accountability.

A new era of technological innovation fueled by the private sector has also benefited government citizen services by enhancing efficiencies, streamlining processing, and embedding accountability. As a result of recent technological advances, citizen engagement can now be automated and assimilated into enterprise service platforms that use multi-channel contact tools via phone, email, web, mobility or through work-flow self-service tools and agent-assisted responses.

So what are some of these Wizard-like citizen engagement tools? Among other software and tech, these tools include Avatars, Robotic Process Automation, and Artificial Intelligence.

Avatars are virtual assistants that Combine User-Interfaces, Natural Language Processing, and a Process Orchestration Framework.  The digital interfaces provide for an improved user experience and can replace the human at one end in a dialog-based process (where appropriate). In the engagement environment, avatars fine-tune the customer or citizen experience. Virtual Avatars can engage in multiple topics, online learning from previous conversations, and develop an adaptive conversation style. They serve as enabling agents to handle calls in a lesser amount of time by reducing the processing load. The automation of standard call flows reduces errors and frees up agents to handle more complex cases. Avatars also can improve security by automating the handling of sensitive information.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) reduces manual work and human errors. It is a capability that scalable and secure that allows automated integration with any IT application or website to perform complex rule-based work (such as clerical processes or transactions), typically in the same way that a user would. RPA transforms citizen service operations by deploying technology for common, repeatable tasks, and frees up human talent for higher, more complex issues. RPA is used widely in the private sector, including contact centers, insurance enrollment & billing, claims to process, and medical coding. Another automated form of bots called chatbots is used to automate tasks that were done manually for phone, messaging, social and social media. These bots too are growing in use in service platforms along with RPA.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the engine that will ultimately drive avatars, bots, and tools of citizen services. The advent of supercomputing processing and advanced algorithms for data analytics has led to the emergence of artificial intelligenceThere are many generic definitions of AI. In his article Executive Guide to Artificial Intelligence, Amith Parameshwara offers an overview of the basic elements. He notes that AI includes a language processing interface, memory emulation to gather data and extract meanings, continuous learning, and reasoning and judgment.  An article in The Mckinsey Quarterly, A smart home is where the bot is,” puts it in context of consumer engagement: “Increasingly, designers will tap into and even advance data science to develop solutions that go beyond addressing static insights. Likely, that will entail solutions that are at least in part AI-driven, in order to react instantly and evolve constantly for the needs of customers.”  This AI service trend may first visit the private sector but ultimately will be adapted to the government as technology is streamlined.”

As we continue to evolve into the new digital era of the Internet of Things, there are other tools entering the citizen engagement tool chest including machine learning, cognitive analytics, design thinking, and virtual & augmented reality. These tools are advancing rapidly and have the increasing potential to enhance engagement and productivity. Government, supported by industry will need to follow the yellow brick road as an exciting and optimized citizen services future beckons.


Chuck Brooks
Chuck Brooks
Chuck Brooks is a globally recognized thought leader and evangelist for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies. LinkedIn named Chuck as one of “The Top 5 Tech People to Follow on LinkedIn”. He was named by Thompson Reuters as a “Top 50 Global Influencer in Risk, Compliance,” and by IFSEC as the “#2 Global Cybersecurity Influencer” in 2018. He is also a Cybersecurity Expert for “The Network” at the Washington Post, Visiting Editor at Homeland Security Today, and a Contributor to FORBES. In government, Chuck has received two senior Presidential appointments. Under President George W. Bush Chuck was appointed to The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the first Legislative Director of The Science & Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security. He also was appointed as Special Assistant to the Director of Voice of America under President Reagan. He served as a top Advisor to the late Senator Arlen Specter on Capitol Hill covering security and technology issues on Capitol Hill. In local government, he also worked as an Auxiliary Police officer for Arlington, Virginia. In industry, Chuck has served in senior executive roles for General Dynamics as the Principal Market Growth Strategist for Cyber Systems, at Xerox as Vice President & Client Executive for Homeland Security, for Rapiscan and Vice President of R & D, for SRA as Vice President of Government Relations, and for Sutherland as Vice President of Marketing and Government Relations. In academia, Chuck is Adjunct Faculty at Georgetown University’s Applied Intelligence Program and graduate Cybersecurity Programs where he teaches courses on risk management, homeland security, and cybersecurity. He was an Adjunct Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University where he taught a graduate course on homeland security for two years. He has an MA in International relations from the University of Chicago, a BA in Political Science from DePauw University, and a Certificate in International Law from The Hague Academy of International Law.

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