Challenges and Opportunities for Cognitive Computing in Public Sector

Challenges to Cognitive Computing in Public Sector

The challenge in today’s world of improving or innovating government programs is that we have a broad array of information and process automation to co-ordinate.   Another major challenge of being in a data driven world is that information can be wrong, false, incorrect, out of date or inaccessible.  Cognitive Computing with its ability to apply algorithmic programming allows advanced patterns to be identified out of a much larger group data sets; which allows us to reduce the “noise” associated with making decisions and program outcomes.

There is also a need for evidence based decision making; which needs to follow a prescribed methodology.  As well as the need to analyze larger bodies of knowledge and information.  Traditional rules and equation based programming cannot manage or interact with a human in natural language.  Cognitive Computing interacts with a government worker with natural language and with the ability to learn and enhance the algorithms needed to find and test hypothesis or questions.

Government must ensure information is secured and managed effective.  One of the challenges of moving to cloud based computing or sharing data sets of information across government raises the issue of how far can the data or the information move from where is was created.  Information provenance and governance practices must be in place but the need for private cloud or platform as a service cognitive computing service catalogs are needed to ensure the data is kept within the boundaries of how it is to be governed and managed.  Data residency is another issue associated with using cloud services or cloud computing; however most major providers of cloud services have data centres within the country thereby offsetting issues associated with Data Residency.

Recommendations:

Most governments around the world today have a shared services model for core ICT and Enterprise applications support.  We are seeing that government are now looking at cloud brokerage services being managed within the government which deals with Data Gravity issues.  And based on the nature of the API Economy we see that PaaS (Platform as a Service) are now being investigated and tested.   Therefore, we see central shared services agencies being the agent of change and will look to them to deploy Cognitive Computing PaaS as a service catalog that other government agencies and projects can leverage which will then ensure information is secure and protected depending on the type of information.

Opportunity to Innovate in Government Programs

Due to ability of cognitive computing to identify patterns or information at high speed and with large sets of information the opportunities in government are broad.  Since all information sources are able to be analyzed and combined (Databases and text etc.) a more complete picture is provided to an individual to make decisions.

Any area within a government program that houses a large set of information relevant to a specific domain: benefits, policy, regulations etc. Would benefit from cognitive computing since this information can be analyzed as well as added to a corpus of knowledge that the machine learning algorithms can access and analyze across dimensions such as time or relevance etc.

Six forces that will impact the future evolution of cognitive computing in Public Sector. 

Each facet has its own issues and challenges for this technology to be adopted.

Society

  • Tremendous demand for more intelligent machines and access through mobile devices can facilitate familiarity and comfort with technology
  • Fears of privacy breaches and machines taking human jobs could be a deterrent

Perception

  • Perceptions and expectations must be well managed
  • Unrealistic perceptions of risk and expectations could lead to a third “Artificial Intelligence AI Winter”

Policy

  • Wider adoption will require the modifying policies (e.g., data sharing) and creating new policies (e.g., decision traceability)
  • Fear, uncertainty and doubt may be addressed by new policies (e.g., data security & privacy)

Technology

  • Advanced, intelligent devices will enable a greater understanding of entity context and contribute to the robustness of available information corpora
  • Greater scalability needs drive new architectures and paradigms

Information

  • Variety and scalability capabilities of future systems will advance rapidly to cope with information exhaust
  • Information explosion could advance evolution and adoption rates

Skills

  • Cognitive computing demands unique skills such as natural language processing, machine learning
  • Greater availability of key skills will be key in the evolution and adoption of the capability

Recommendations: One must co-ordinate a strategy that revolves around the areas discussed above.  The fundamental challenges similar to cloud based computing in pubic sector will be policy and cultural change that needs to be managed in order for the information and technology to develop.

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Transformation and Innovation in Public Sector has new hope

I have seen many “transformations” throughout my work with governments: from punch-card Fortran programming to client-server computing, to web, to mobile and social media. Almost every presentation I have seen over the past twenty years speaks to the government’s need to transform: to do more with less and to innovate. So far there has been more of an evolution than a transformation in government IT. However, with new initiatives such as“Bring your own device” (BYOD), Cloud,“The Internet of Things”, “Appification”, Anti-“Skumorphism” User Interface Design(The word exists!), Big Data, Analytics and Social and Mobile, there is a growing shift toward transformation within government technology.

Specifically, there is a changing culture due to new possibilities for government workers to leverage technology of their own.This shift is driven by the changing spectrum of user expectations and the free availability of information.Let us take me as an example. I am my very own IT department, complete with location services, rules, process automation, the internet of things, cloud, big data and a large supply of apps at my beck and call. I can use IFTTT (If This Then This) for simple rules to control the light bulbs and thermostats in my house. The power I have as an end user is boggling. What can we take away from all this? IT and Central CIOs are now using this same technology and brainstorming about potential applications of similar techniques to meet end users expectations and demands. These thought leaders are pushing the government to empower end users in the same ways that these users are being empowered in their personal lives.

Despite movement toward transformation in Government, I hesitate to get too enthusiastic. Major road blocks to such progress still remain. Chiefly, procurement: due to the siloed government approach to selecting vendors there is limited ability for transformative technology use.

But don’t give up hope.  Together, we can work to develop creative and strong business cases and procurement vehicles that can bring in transformative solutions. To push Transformation in Government forward we must have government IT and line of business execs motivated and educated in order to advocate for better and more dynamic procurement policies that can pave way for the development of truly transformative solutions.

However; in my previous post of the infographic on Contextual Computing I believe since policies will be challenged in order to deploy that type of computing technology that in turn procurement will be challenged as well.  Here is the executive report on the study done by IBM on Contextual Computing

Empowering governments through contextual computing Exec Report.pdf

Contextual Computing

Contextual Computing unlocking the power of enterprise data Infographic

Access to information under pressure

In 2013, over 704,000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were submitted to the United States Federal government, and roughly 95,000 remained backlogged at the end of the 2013 fiscal year. According to FOIA.gov, many requests were answered in an incomplete form and were usually missing information. Almost half of those requests were considered incomplete by the requestor because the government agency either denied the information or did not provide the information in full.

 

With press coverage highlighting cases in which FOIA requests were challenged in court and the sensitivity to declassification of government documents , government organizations are under pressure to be more responsive. There have been attempts to streamline the process of fulfilling an FOIA request and accessing information easier, but the onus still falls on the individual government agencies to manage fulfillment.

 

Beyond FOIA requests, many agencies need to declassify documentation in accordance with record, archival and compliance guidelines. Declassification can quickly become a challenge because the originating department that classified the document or parts of a document must manage the declassification of that content. Accordingly, various documents may have multiple agencies or departments that must coordinate and sometimes deny declassification. Mandatory declassification can be requested on its own or as part of an FOIA request, but the challenge to a declassification request must submitted separately. All of these moving parts and processes can result in delays, backlogs and high costs, as well as additional legal challenges around declassification.

 

I believe what is needed is to combine several technical capabilities to address the requirements for FOIA requests as well as the redaction and declassification of documents. Technically organizations should be able to integrate and automate more of the declassification workflow and information gathering to help agencies meet the timeframes of FOIA requests or declassification of documents.

 

We are reaching the limits of existing FOIA technology

 

With increased demand for transparency and access to information by policy analysts, legal system workers, journalists and citizens, the need to manage the FOIA process and respond in a timely fashion becomes paramount. The typical response time for a request for information is 20 days, but that time can quickly balloon as more requests arrive.

 

Requests can be complicated and may follow a variety of processes across government organizations. Plus, once information is declassified it must be appropriately managed, as do the growing numbers of court documents generated by legal challenges for information. For example, 372 FOIA lawsuits were filed in 2013, generating 1,800 documents. By automating tasks around the collection of documents and delegation of files, government organizations can better manage and measure timelines.

Taking the first steps to improve the situation

If your agency experiences challenges or delays fulfilling FOIA requests or declassifying documents, there are several steps you can take to improve efficiency:

 

Assess your agency’s current approach to handling FOIA or mandatory declassification requests.

Understand if there is a backlog of requests and if the information being provided to requestors is as complete as possible.

Identify where requests or processes can be improved and define metrics for success.

Establish the scope for your improvement project and then do both a tech and business assessment Ensure a robust business case is developed.

Thoughts ?

 

Update and Observations May 2014

I have been meeting with government and healthcare organizations over the past few months and it apparent that there is a general frustration with existing work based technology and applications.  I have discussed this earlier; that we are technically “rich” in our personal lives and technically “poor at work.

ERP, HRMS and CRM systems that have been deployed over the past 20 years had inherent user interface issues (i.e. they sucked).  We have done Business Value Assessments in the past where we found end users printing screen shots of the work they did in an ERP system because they did not trust the technology and feared being audited: that is fundamentally bad when you are supposedly using technology and reverting back to manual processes.

So with your personal life filled with smartphones, tablets, smart televisions, smart thermostats that talk to your smartphone etc.; and the “Appification” of everything where you the consumer have a broad choice of applications, data and platforms to interact with said software and content your expectations rise rapidly.

So when you show up to work on a Monday and look at multiple login screens to archaic and dysfunctional technology you get depressed (which I would argue affects your productivity ).  You have diligently documented how to get work done via the “Cheat Sheets” at your cubicle or work area and you plod along.  Juxtaposed with what is on your smartphone on your hip vs. what you look at on your workstation.  Things need to change you need to be able to have a richer work experience.

So, as  mentioned my discussions with clients in all areas of public sector have been interesting.  They want to be more effective in getting work done with technology that provides what they want when they want and on the platform of their choice.  So over the next few posts I will be covering:

Work Optimization – Think about what method you use to get work done.  Task Outcome or Time Sensitive work are done differently and there is always a process or workflow productive people stick to; so understanding how people work becomes more important in deploying technology.  

Open Data – What does this mean and how does ECM fit into this.  Since with Open Data Sets organizations have information in a format that can be repurposed and presented for constituents to be better informed or government agencies to enhance their decision making process in getting work done.

Contextual Computing – IBM has done a recent study on this new developing area and how it helps people work better with better decision making etc.

As always I look forward to questions of discussion.

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