Stuck in the Stone Age

While private sector companies have been reaping the benefits of automation for decades (General Motors deployed industrial robots as early as 1961), it seemed that government agencies would be perpetually immune from reaping such rewards. This dynamic persisted despite the fact that the nature of many government processes (rule-based, highly repetitive) makes them well-suited for automation.

Well, it appears that immunity has disappeared as government officials are waking up to the automation revolution! Governments around the world are making investments in cutting-edge, automation initiatives that have the potential to level the playing field between public and private sector efficiency. By harnessing the power of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), government agencies have realized that a wealth administrative tasks such as processing applications for public services can be performed by digital public servants. RPA technology automates repeatable, rule-based workflows with a relatively quick implementation period. With digital assistants in the mix, public officials can provide the type of fast, accurate service citizens have come to expect from private businesses.

A Great Match

Agency heads are desperate to find low-cost solutions to keep output levels high in an environment of austere budgets and understaffed departments. Recent analysis suggests that automating 10% of a federal worker’s routine tasks would result in annual savings of $16.2 billion. Furthermore, offloading mundane tasks to an automation could elevate employee morale and allow them to spend more time providing high quality service to the public.

Government RPA in Action

In light of all that can be achieved with RPA, officials around the world are taking action. The UK’s HM Revenue & Customs Department (think English IRS) has already embraced RPA as a means of transforming and improving its internal operations. Sir John Manzoni, head of the UK Civil Service, recently extolled the benefits of RPA as a way to, “transform the experience of citizens registering for services or applying for grants or benefits.” By bringing more IT and automation talent in-house, the HMRC is targeting annual savings of £200 by 2021. Other local agencies in the UK including Newham and Sefton Councils, are making investments in automation projects that could expedite and streamline the process for delivering services to citizens in their communities.

The Brits aren’t the only ones using RPA to transform government services, agency heads in the United States have also bought into the notion of digital public service. The General Services Administration (GSA) launched the Artificial Intelligence for Citizen Services pilot in October 2016 to study how government systems might benefit from AI-driven tools. The GSA has already completed a successful RPA pilot program to speed up its FASt lane acquisitions process. Programs such as these demonstrate the pragmatic approach governments can take in order to speed up their internal operations.

Not to be outdone, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has developed and deployed an RPA bot of its own. Code-named “Washington”, this NASA bot is designed to populate HR files with information from emails. Who knows, before long we might see automation bots in space!

In Southeast Asia, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is making investments to digitally transform one of the world’s busiest ports. The MPA has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with start-up Glee Tree to develop and deploy RPA in the ship agency sector. These efforts are components of a larger strategic initiative to bring 5,000 new jobs and $4.5 billion in value-add for the sea transport sector. The Singaporean government has deployed automation technologies in other government sectors as well including the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Electronic Road Pricing system to automatically deduct tolls and other transportation related expenses from motorists.

Government Automation is here to stay

Overall, one can see that the benefits of RPA and digital automation are no longer restricted to Silicon Valley or the world’s most innovative companies. Ordinary citizens around the world are poised to bask in the glory of fast, accurate and reliable government services assisted by an automated workforce. As the public RPA investments being made today begin to show material return on tax revenue, waiting weeks or months to receive approval for a government service will be as old-school as landlines and cable TV.

If you’ve got a government RPA project in mind, Velocity is an approved government vendor and we’d love to hear from you!