The cognitive technologies behind artificial intelligence have the potential to fundamentally reshape how the federal government operates , according to a report from the Deloitte Center for Government Insights.

SwissCognitiveThe report, “ AI-Augmented Government ,” released earlier this month, says that “over time, AI will spawn massive changes in the public sector, transforming how government employees get work done. It’s likely to eliminate some jobs, lead to the redesign of countless others, and create entirely new professions.” One of the biggest potential changes is the cost of doing business. The report found that “millions of working hours each year (out of some 4.3 billion worked total) could be freed up today by automating tasks that computers already routinely do.”

At the low end of the spectrum, Deloitte estimates, automation could save 96.7 million federal hours annually, with a potential savings of $3.3 billion . At the high end, those figures jump to 1.2 billion hours and a potential annual savings of $41.1 billion . The report provides a taxonomy of AI systems — rules-based systems, machine translation, computer vision, machine learning, robotics and natural language processing — and delves into their practical applications in government. How can AI reshape the federal government? Here are some clear benefits the report spells out.

1. Shift Human Labor to High-Value Work

Robotics and cognitive automation allow machines to replicate human actions and judgment, allowing people to avoid manual tasks in order to do work that requires uniquely human abilities , Deloitte notes. “For example, we can automate data entry with automatic handwriting recognition, handle scheduling with planning and optimization algorithms, and use speech recognition, natural language processing, and question-answering technology to provide customer service,” the report says. “Such capabilities could potentially address three common pain points for government: resource constraints, paperwork burdens, and backlogs.”

2. Overcome Resource Constraints

The report notes that “cognitive automation can perform tasks at previously impractical scales, speeds, and volumes,” allowing for both resource redistribution and workforce optimization. For example, electronic document discovery locates 95 percent of relevant documents in the discovery phase of legal cases, compared to an average 50 percent for humans, and in a fraction of the time. “The technology allows lawyers to sift through vastly larger document dumps,” the report says. “In medicine, similarly, robotic surgery aims to allow doctors to perform more operations.”

3. Cut Paperwork Down Significantly

A 2016 Governing survey of state and local officials found that 53 percent had trouble getting their work done in a 35-to-40-hour week due to excessive paperwork burdens, the report notes. At the federal level, Deloitte says that “simply documenting and recording information consumes a half-billion staff hours each year, at a cost of more than $16 billion in wages alone. Procuring and processing information eats up another 280 million person hours, costing the federal government an additional $15 billion annually.” Robotic automation could help cut that down substantially.  […]