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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is opening up a new frontier by combining human creativity with technology to drive progress in our society and bring governments closer to their constituents.

According to the 2018 United Nations (UN) e-Government Survey all 193 Member States have e-government systems in place, at different maturity levels, to deliver digital services and experiences to citizens.

The three most commonly used e-government services are paying utilities (140 countries), submitting income taxes (139 countries), and registering a new business (126 countries). Denmark is heading the top 10 e-government development ranking, followed by Australia, the Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Singapore, New Zealand, France and Japan. The United States ranks on 11th place for e-government.

A new frontier with Artificial Intelligence

The next phase of e-government will use AI to go beyond digitized and automated services and deliver better experiences to citizens. The Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, analytics, and blockchain, have triggered a shift towards a more intelligent society.

While AI creates new possibilities, it also invokes ‘angst’ and mistrust: the fear of job losses, a total surveillance state a la Big Brother, or a world dominated by machine-powered intelligence instead of humans. The introduction of AI needs to go hand-in-hand with good governance models and ethics. SAP was the first European company to establish an AI ethics steering committee to address concerns regarding the transparency, safety and privacy related to technology innovation and to ensure that technology is used to augment and protect human lives.

Together with businesses, governments are forming AI strategies that steer the use of intelligent technologies related to fairness, safety, data privacy, transparency, citizen engagement, and the future of work.

Fraud prediction helps fund essential services

Some governments already started exploring the use of AI to improve the experience with their services and engage with citizens. The Office of State Revenue, the agency responsible for collecting the taxes in the State of Queensland in Australia, was one of the world’s first government agencies that started using data analytics, machine learning and AI to predict and prevent payment irregularities and tax fraud. The second largest and most decentralized state in Australia realized that timely collection of taxation revenue is key to the government’s ability to fund essential services.

But each year up to 5 percent of revenues are uncollected by the due date. Using technology, the State today can predict 70 percent of tax payment default risks and launch assistance programs ahead of time to help residents manage their fiscal responsibility and a better predictable State income.

Estonia has one of the world’s most advanced e-government systems. Not just taxes are handled digitally. 99 percent of the entire public services for the Baltic nation’s 1.3 million people are available online 24 hours a day. Nearly one-third of citizens vote via the internet. Only major life events, such as weddings, are done in person.

AI helps governments to provide a new level of convenience, it can also help to protect lives. During earthquakes most deaths are caused through unstable buildings. Sitting on the boundary of four tectonic plates, Japan is one of the world’s most seismically active area. The seismometer manufacturer Hakusan developed an earthquake monitoring system that turns cell phones into portable seismometers. An app collects data from smartphones to analyze the impact of earthquakes on building stability.

AI helps meet sustainability goals

Federal and city governments turn to intelligent technologies to meet sustainability goals. My home town, the City of Heidelberg, is at the forefront of the smart cities movement. With 160,000 residents, Heidelberg is the fifth-largest city in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. It is also one of Europe’s most popular tourist destination. 11.9 million people visit the historic town at the Neckar river every year.

To keep the city clean without an increased burden on citizens and the environment, Heidelberg implemented a smart waste management system. Sensors at trash receptables monitor the waste levels in real-time via a cloud-based dashboard. Once a container is filled, the system automatically triggers an alert for the city’s garbage truck fleet to service the location. Instead of emptying trash containers at set times throughout the week, they are only emptied as needed. This smart waste management system has significantly reduced the noise level, street congestion, and air quality for residents. It also helps Heidelberg to analyze and forecast future waste management needs.

We are just at the beginning of exploring the applications of AI, but its potential is tremendous. AI can improve mobility, advance education, protect food and water safety, decrease emissions, prevent crime, increase cross-border security and even save lives.

Our society has the possibility to grow into a more intelligent and participatory society in the future with AI, if paired with good ethics and governance models. The key is to achieve a symbiosis between human creativity and technology that creates the best experience for all. Japan’s concept of Society 5.0 puts the power of our imagination at the steering wheel to guide our society through the fifth phase of globalization. Society 5.0 combines digital transformation with human imagination and creativity to create solutions that support sustainable development.

Following the idea of the Imagination Society, AI could be applied as an innovation service to transform our society for the future within the guidelines we set. One of the guidelines should be to create the best possible experience for citizens in our digital society today – and in the future.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Michael Kleinemeier

Quelle/Source: Forbes, 07.11.2019

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