Four Building Blocks for the Next Era of Federal AI

The commitment of the federal government in connection with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) is immense. Aside from the size, variety, and criticality of its various responsibilities, the government is arguably the world’s largest holder of data. If done right, the federal government can lead the world in using AI to improve health outcomes, solve the climate crisis, raise living standards, and more.

How close are we to realizing the full potential of AI? Let’s look at the current state of affairs:

  • The advances in AI over the last few years have been nothing short of remarkable – we are truly in the golden age of advancement when it comes to AI.
  • These advances have demonstrated the clear value that AI can bring to businesses; soon it will be an integral aspect of the way most companies operate.
  • Federal agencies have been leaders in defining the responsible, ethical, and appropriate use of AI.
  • But while federal agencies have made strides in using AI, true embedding in federal operations requires more flexible, integrated, and comprehensive approaches — from considering how data is organized to who can work with AI and more.

Based on our work across the spectrum of federal missions—from citizen services and health to defense and national security—we have identified four new building blocks federal agencies can leverage to create a strong foundation for long-term AI success.

1. Data-driven transformation

Across the federal government, tech ecosystems are becoming amorphous. Today, there is almost no clear distinction between the applications and data that people use, making it more important than ever to take control of your data. And to do that, you must first gain control of the ecosystem and prioritize data as a strategic asset that can be accessed, connected, and managed at scale. You also need to think about privacy concerns—namely, who in an organization should be accessing what. Getting this right requires a comprehensive approach to data, from strategy and planning to execution and operations. This is what we call data-driven transformation.

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Data-driven transformation is a crucial piece of the AI ​​puzzle, as you need to ensure you are responsible when building solutions for long-term access to your data. So the first step in any responsible data-driven transformation is to fully understand where your data resides and how you intend to use it. This often requires modernizing some infrastructure to present it in a more accountable, controlled, secure and cost-effective environment, making it easier for you to use the right data at the right time and for the right use case. Typically, moving workloads or data structures from legacy platforms like the mainframe to the cloud is an important part of any data-driven transformation.

2. Democratization of AI

More democratized AI can remove barriers between the business and IT sides of an agency—helping to close the execution gap. In other words, getting AI into the hands of more people faster can greatly increase the speed and reduce the cost that insights can use to empower decision-makers and improve mission operations.

Of course, if you wanted to use AI directly in the past, you needed a PhD and programming skills to manually program algorithms to create the prediction and pipeline you wanted. Today, with the advent of low-code environments and new approaches to data engineering, citizen data scientists can collaborate with classically trained data scientists and engineers using AI pipelines that build with drag-and-drop precision and ease can become. This can help organizations bridge the skills gap and ultimately see a more immediate and actionable value in AI.

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3. Distributed Intelligence

In the last five to ten years we have seen a massive increase in available computing power. Also, network speeds have gotten even faster with 5G and Wifi 6. Enabled by AI, this increasingly distributed intelligence can empower federal agencies with powerful new capabilities. We’re becoming much faster at collecting data, querying data, making predictions and generating forward-looking insights, all outside of the traditional IT perimeter.

The potential for these autonomous, intelligent systems is immense—think robots, self-driving vehicles, drones, virtual agents, and wearables. For example, our population is aging rapidly, both in the US and globally. However, we do not have enough caregivers to continue to enable this entire population to live an independent, dignified and fulfilling life. Assistive robots and similar systems can fill this gap by performing mundane tasks and supporting mobility, proactively monitoring health and well-being, and even providing companionship. The combination of smarter, smaller, and more powerful computing—combined with faster communication protocols—enables systems that can independently detect, learn, and respond with confidence.

4. Intelligent platforms

These emerging trends in AI all bring with them a range of new possibilities, but they also bring complications. For agencies to use them most effectively, we need intelligent platforms that bring them all together. The government is already using many low-code AI development platforms such as Salesforce, Pegasystems, and ServiceNow, all made possible by the rise of cloud and containerization.

Platform-centric approaches are increasingly enabling authorities to reduce the skills gap between different stakeholders involved in a process. You can combine procedural logic with declarative logic or machine learning and predictive logic, increasing the ability to transact and execute decisions within the same platform.

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The future of AI is agile and flexible, and in many ways it is already here. By examining and executing on these four trends, federal agencies can derive greater value from their data and work towards realizing the full potential of AI.

Want to learn more about how AI will shape the future of government? More content is available here from our team at Accenture Federal Services. In the coming weeks we will be publishing in-depth articles on each of these four trends. I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts on what’s working well in your agency. You’re welcome connect with me on LinkedIn.

Michael ScrugsManaging Director, Accenture Federal Services, Applied Intelligence Lead