The biggest fear among science fiction fans is that artificial intelligence (AI) will eliminate the human race. The biggest fear people with mortgages and car payments have is that artificial intelligence will eliminate their jobs.

Pop culture conspiracies and Hollywood movies aside, at least one of those groups can rest a little easier. A Gartner report found that AI is predicted to create more jobs than it will eliminate – adding an estimated total of 500,000 jobs.

Many times, when AI is brought up in conversation, much of the focus is on how its automation will slash jobs and put people out of work, when really the focus should instead reside on how AI’s augmentation will help support jobs and improve everyday workflow. People shouldn’t be apprehensive about AI; they should be asking what can it do? How far can it go? And most importantly, how is it going to help local government agencies serve their citizens more efficiently?

Artificial intelligence has three actionable goals it can help local government agencies achieve. They are:

TO SAVE TIME

How AI helps: Government employees spend vast majorities of their time doing routine, repetitive tasks, like data entry, answering queries and IT tickets or checking on the progress of citizen requests. Through AI automation, government agencies can significantly cut down the time and effort these tasks take from human staff. Government employees are then free to focus on more complex issues that have higher citizen impact.

TO INCREASE THE VALUE OF WORK

How AI helps: Providing quality support and aid to citizens is one of local government’s primary responsibilities. By no longer having to do those repetitive, lengthy tasks, employees will have more time to explore new creative opportunities that better serve their citizens. This is a common problem faced by caseworkers for agencies like the Department of Children and Families who are so overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases they have, that many feel as if they cannot make significant progress in any of them. Through AI automation and augmentation, employees can go deeper into the data to provide better insight and service to citizens.

TO CUT COSTS

How AI helps: Repairing aging assets can be a needlessly expensive problem many agencies face. Many times, overburdened government employees catch infrastructure repair needs after the fact. AI can be used to monitor and protect infrastructure – using computer vision and image recognition to identify and predict problems with structures or individual pieces of equipment and alerting employees of repair before issues become critical.

A typical challenge local government may face with the implementation of AI is that it can very easily diminish agency morale if it is viewed as simply phase one of replacing employees. Government leaders should make it a priority to assure employees and staff that AI is a tool, one that will be used to increase their efficiency and value, and that it’s not a threat to their jobs.

The effect AI will have on coming generations will be profound. Many government workers go into the public sector so that they can help serve their communities. With the time savings AI can help governments realize, employees will be able to focus on more strategic work and amplify the positive impact on the lives of citizens. Overall, the automation and augmentation AI will provide will ultimately kickstart jobs and innovation in local government. 

Science fiction fans, however – stay vigilant.