Moving beyond transactional AI

Governments must consider how AI will drive personalisation, citizen value and trust in order to reshape the journey Australians take on these government digital offerings, writes Rob Bollard.

Rob Bollard

Essential to the relationship between governments and Australians is the trust and value formed between each party. Living in a digital age, much of the engagement from government increasingly takes place online, across platforms like MyGov and state services websites or platforms  underpinned by strong service design around the needs of the citizen.

Governments across Australia have worked hard to improve their citizens’ digital journeys and offerings. This has accelerated exponentially post covid as citizens increasingly pivoted to more accessible and necessary digital solutions across all aspects of their lives. These attempts have been welcomed by users and are evolving with varied success across Australia.

However, my observation has been that the significant focus of these advances has been purely at the transactional level and focused predominantly on stitching together more connected services for citizens to meet their needs. To sweeten the experience, governments must consider how AI will drive personalisation, citizen value and trust in order to reshape the journey Australians take on these government digital offerings.

Government platforms are utilised to address a range of Australian’s needs. They provide access to a variety of support and services – including the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink, Child Support and more. Given the variety and importance of these services to the wellbeing of our citizens, it’s essential that the public are not hindered by poor user journeys and that governments demonstrate citizen value, particularly at times when additional stress is the last thing people need.

Getting AI wrong can have catastrophic results, as the Robodebt debacle showed.

A fragmented user experience

An audit review conducted in September last year found that although myGov users have more than doubled in the last five years, from 11.7 million in June 2017 to more than 25 million as of September 2022, satisfaction with the service has only risen from 40 to 45 per cent. This shows great opportunity for improvement.

Currently, interaction between the platforms and the public remains sporadic and purely at a basic service fulfilment layer. Besides when national events like tax returns take place, ongoing interactions don’t occur at a steady rate.

This means citizens are continually relearning how to navigate the platforms each time they need to access them, with the lack of familiarity hindering trust and sometimes being a source of frustration. This is reinforced by the lack of experience and personalised and proactive engagement that is common across the leading customer service industries.

AI powered responsible engagement offers the pathway to positioning these new platforms as trusted and valued.

The inability to share data across government platforms also increases the time spent on tasks and creates a poor experience in comparison to how we have become accustomed to from the private sector, where we see personalisation and one-to-one engagement building trust, compliance and loyalty.

To solve this gap, personalisation and citizen value from these digital touchpoints with government needs to be improved through responsible approaches.

By doing this, they could improve understanding of the different services needed by each Australian every time they access – and in turn, using AI to quickly adapt, they can dramatically enhance the overall experience.

Delivering value and building relationships will build further trust and compliance ultimately not only improving citizen satisfaction but delivering more effective and efficient delivery. Guardrails are still needed when considering AI adoption but by tapping into its power, the benefits can far outweigh the negatives for everyday Australians.

Harnessing AI for optimal citizen engagement

Through AI, digital government platforms can be optimised to not only meet citizen needs better but drive improved service effectiveness and build a strong relationship between governments and the public.

A strong government platform would have information that is accessible on demand via mobile devices and self-service digital channels. Utilising low-code AI within platforms, government interactions can:

  • Adapt each experience to fit the individual’s ever-changing needs.
  • Be used to interpret user behaviour in the moment and engage the right services quickly and effectively through real time decisioning.
  • Identify specific times in which it would be best to reach out to a citizen and continually self-optimise to ensure it remains up to date on the latest information, building a more pleasant and productive experience.
  • Guide compliance and drive improved efficiency, speed and effectiveness of service.

As governments around Australia continue to provide a range of services, it is essential they evaluate the impact their digital interactions have on trust, online and in the real world.

I think of the positive impact government can have on the lives of citizens. Imagine a day when a pensioner impacted by floods in regional Australia could be proactively contacted on the day of tragedy by government on their mobile. Initial help could be orchestrated in an integrated frictionless fashion, providing financial relief, counselling, and  support in their time of need.

Or a small business receiving offerings from government and others to assist with success and compliance. This could be in the form of building awareness of tax incentives and grants available to support them on their journey.

It could be a single parent who receives targeted offerings that help navigate the cost-of-living crisis by engaging with government services that assist based on the next best action for her circumstances.

This is not science fiction – with leadership, leveraging the incredible talent of the public sector – these experiences can be achieved today, and the impact would be game changing.

In order to fully enter the digital age, governments must embrace approaches already standard within the leaders of customer service such as banking, insurance or telecommunications. By looking to implement AI into their digital engagement layer it will ensure an optimal user journey and trust can be further established between parties. Australians require positive digital interactions, especially across vital government platforms.

*Rob Bollard is Industrial Principal – Public Sector APAC at Pega

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