a close up of a mans face

AI is driving value across businesses in Europe – so why is only 4% of the public sector seeing real impact?

Sarah Devitt

Sarah Devitt

Microsoft, Digital Transformation and Public Sector

Read Time, 4 min.

In April 2018, the European Commission adopted its first AI strategy, laying out a vision for how AI could transform the public sector.

The strategy revealed how new machine-learning technologies and data tools can improve public services, reduce costs, provide staff with new skillsets and drive efficiencies.

And yet, for the vast majority of public sector organizations in Western Europe, the transformative potential of AI remains elusive.

Research Microsoft conducted with EY this year suggests many such organizations are trying to make the most of emerging AI technologies – but are coming up against roadblocks.

The research found that 67% of public sector organizations have successfully used AI at least once. For 65%, AI is viewed as an important digital priority.

And yet only 4% of organizations have successfully implemented AI in a meaningful way.

As we assess and adapt to the impact of the pandemic, maintain frontline services and navigate the new realities of social distancing, taking advantage of AI has never been so important for the public sector.

Whilst every organization will face its own unique challenges, a few universal principles apply.

Making AI a priority at senior levels of leadership

AI is reliant on inspiring leadership.

Microsoft’s research shows the leaders of the most successful public sector organizations are actively involved in planning, implementing and evaluating AI initiatives. They understand that unlocking the full value of AI requires a commitment to working differently.

AI powered tools offer easily discoverable efficiencies because they can handle simple or repetitive tasks. But AI’s greatest value comes when it is used to innovate and enhance core services and citizen experiences – when it’s designed to augment, and not replace, people.

In Italy, for example, the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato University Hospital uses diagnostic image recognition and electrocardiography, liberating the hospital’s radiologists to make more informed assessments and recommendations.

But the way physicians across Europe approach their work, and use data, changes from one day to the next. Meaningfully implanting AI therefore relies on a change in working culture alongside new technologies. This requires proactive and inspiring senior leadership.

The importance of fairness, transparency and inclusion

Introducing AI requires organizations to properly consider the ethics of privacy, safety, transparency and fairness.

A hospital, for example, might be using AI to help develop a treatment plan for a patient, or a government body might be using technology to help identify at-risk citizens who are entitled to social services. The importance of these decisions can’t simply be measured. But any algorithm must be applied fairly and ethically to ensure all people are treated equally.

For any entity – whether it’s a local government agency, a hospital or an educational institution – building and maintaining trust is absolutely critical to ensure employees and the citizens they serve feel comfortable working with AI.

AI systems are only as good as the data they are fed. It means the right information must be collected. But it also requires a cultural change that allows people to understand how working responsibly with data can lead to powerful new outcomes. Everyone in an organization must be carefully trained to understand and appreciate their duty to handle data in an ethical way.

Establishing clear guidance and transparent processes is therefore a pivotal early step. To help address this, Microsoft has developed guidance on responsible AI design and use, which can be found here.

Using AI enables people to work on intuitive skills that benefit everyone.

As Microsoft’s research shows, the organizations who are leading the way on AI place as much emphasis on developing the existing skills of their employees as they do on implementing the technology itself.

As you might expect, hard skills like data science and engineering are helpful. But consider the things an AI system struggles to do – human solutions born of creativity, empathy and intuitive problem-solving. AI, then, allows employees to spend more time developing the softer-skills that are integral to the success of any organization.

With an AI system in place, organizations can spend more time focusing on negotiation, management, leadership and communications skills that make everyone’s life easier.

Only 11% of the survey’s respondents indicated their organization had the right mix of AI-related skills. Clearly this is a significant new opportunity for the public sector to develop inter-organizational skills in the AI era.

Fortunately, there’s a wealth of free training and educational content available online at Microsoft’s AI Business School. This content also includes a learning path specifically designed for Government.

To be sure an organization’s employees have the skills they need, creating a learn-it-all culture is key. This means more than the introduction of training courses. It means instilling the value of learning as a pathway to reinvention.

AI has the power to transform, but not on its own. Success is as much about people, culture and leadership as it is about technology. For AI to deliver its full potential, it has to be a human endeavor.

Learn more about how AI is being used in public sector organizations across the region in our report ‘Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector: European Outlook for 2020 and Beyond

Major new report: AI in the Public Sector, the European Outlook for 2020 and Beyond

An AI revolution is about to transform the public sector, as organizations adopt the technology across their services.

Discover more related articles per industry:

Education

Finance & Insurance

Government

Healthcare

  • A woman undergoing a scan

    Predictive maintenance is improving quality of life for cancer patients

    With cancer affecting more than 17 million people annually, a figure set to rise dramatically in the coming years, efficient and cost-effective treatment is essential. Since deploying Microsoft Azure IoT, IBA Worldwide, a leading developer of medical equipment for cancer treatment, has been able to reduce the cost of maintenance and improve repair times for […]

  • a man and a woman looking at a laptop

    4 reasons Citrix and Windows Virtual Desktop are better together for healthcare

    Healthcare institutions all over the world experience a huge transformation. In this blog we will address big trends that drive this transformation, like the COVID-19 pandemic, enhanced collaboration between medical specialists and the rise of cyberattacks. In addition, we will also explain how organizations can respond to these developments with the joint solutions from Microsoft […]

Manufacturing

  • Two field workers fixing airplane turbines

    IoT connected field service has tapped into a new economy of satisfaction

    There’s something to be said for how modern convenience has altered customer expectations globally. As the world rapidly moves towards digitisation, traditional values―such as price and product loyalty―are cast aside in favour of curated service experiences. In the field service industry, this has become an area of concern for continuous customer satisfaction and business growth. […]

  • The Best Coffee Is Brewed In The Cloud

    The Best Coffee Is Brewed In The Cloud

    Modern coffee is complicated. Gone are the days when a quick cup of ‘instant’ in the morning would satisfy most of us. Coffee is a living, breathing culture, and with it comes a burgeoning set of consumer expectations. Meeting and exceeding them determines whether coffee businesses sink or swim in an industry where you’re only […]

Retail

  • A close up of a hand sewing leather

    Taking design beyond aesthetics with Natuzzi

    Design is more than an aesthetic. It defines the way we see the world. Take the objects we have in our homes. They are more than just tables, chairs and sofas; collectively they are a window into the way we see ourselves, each item selected against a personalised criteria of practicality, comfort, status and cost. […]

  • Store staff looking and pointing at screen

    Helping store staff rise to the challenge of creating world-class experiences

    Consumers have more information and choice than ever. That’s why shopping experiences provide an opportunity to differentiate and delight customers – rather than competing on cost alone. The digital shopping revolution has given us access to companies and information that was unimaginable two decades ago – and it has raised our expectations of bricks-and-mortar retailers […]

Discover more related articles per dossier:

Customer Stories

Digital Transformation

  • 2 persons standing

    5 Key Insights about Modern Manufacturing

    The pace of change in manufacturing is relentless. An unstoppable wave of technological innovation is sweeping across the industry, redefining the processes and structures it leaves in its wake. No sooner are new milestones glimpsed, than they’re reached and surpassed. It is an industry outliving itself. Riding this wave – rather than being overcome by […]

Press

Security & Privacy

Tips

  • Group of two female and one male office workers brainstorming in informal office setting. Both women are using laptops while the man is writing. Large screen shown in background.

    2019 Modern Selling Trends in 5 webinars

    The relationship between buyers and sellers grows more complicated each day. Every potential partnership requires finding the right buyer, fully understanding their business, tracking progress through the buying cycle, and engaging them with the right content—when and how they want it. These shifting dynamics underscore the artistry of modern selling. When the time is right, […]