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How Intelligent Automation Will Transform The UK Government

October 12 2021

3 min read

Most public sector employees enter civil service to do impactful work that improves the lives of citizens and drives their nation forward. Despite those aspirations, many are met with manual processes, outdated technology, and administrative work that slows them down.

On the other side of this are citizens applying for the services they require. The current, friction-filled process adds a significant “time tax” tolled. The effort, wait, and complexity steal hours from the public—which in the case of the National Health Service, could have serious, life-and-death consequences.

So if the time wasted on manual processes within the UK public sector is transferred to the UK public, what can be done to expedite processes and reduce that “time tax”? In two words: intelligent automation. Intelligent automation and the operational agility it provides will revolutionize the way the UK public sector provides services to citizens.

This realization isn’t groundbreaking, as the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has already begun strategizing widespread use of AI. Further, legacy automation technology such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) have already been implemented in varying degrees throughout the UK public sector.

But if the UK public sector wants a more cohesive and flexible system to improve their operations and overall citizen experience, they must combine their learnings from prior small-scale automation pilots with their newfound strategy for AI to free their employees to work on higher value work.

Legacy Tech Stacks Aren’t Cutting It

The UK public sector has been working to digitise steadily over the previous decade. In fact, some “E-government” initiatives were introduced to the UK as early as 1997 in hopes of shifting all government services and transactions online. Despite that head start, the current state of the UK public sector’s digital infrastructure is a patchwork—with legacy solutions hastily interwoven to create cumbersome tech debt.

Smaller scale programmes and initiatives utilizing RPA have been successful, such as the Caerphilly County Borough Council harnessing RPA to deal with the surge in applications for free school meals during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite that, these rule-based automations like RPA struggle to scale to the complexity and size large-scale government programmes require.

Further, the recent struggles UK’s Cabinet Office dealt with in rolling out GOV.UK Verify can be viewed as a learning experience when a digital transformation project starts with unrealistic goals. It’s integral to understand the true capacity of a technology prior to embarking on a wide-scale project, and RPA’s rigidity – as an example – just doesn’t lend well to highly-variable, highly-dependent projects that make up the public sector. Alternatively, on the extraction end of the automation process, in the words of one of our US government customers: “OCR is going the way of the dinosaurs,” as it struggles with the real-world imperfections and variety of citizen documents.

Legacy technology, especially those that lack the intelligence of AI and ML, won’t meet the UK public sector’s needs for cost savings, simplicity, and flexibility.

Evolving To A Smarter Solution

The difference between basic digitisation and intelligent digitisation must be clear and distinct if the UK public sector plans to move their strategy forward towards greater, more effective efficiency gains. In September 2021, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy published its National AI Strategy, which aims to establish the UK public sector as a leading example of how advanced automation and AI techniques can be deployed to enhance the health, wellbeing, prosperity, and security of UK citizens.

This can be viewed as a declaration that it’s time to take the next step in digitisation. 

Most current applications of automation in the UK public sector amount to nothing more than a digital facade—online portals and front ends that require manual data entry behind-the-scenes to make sense of that data. It doesn’t scale and it’s leading to lost hours, wasted resources, and a lack of accuracy.

Alternatively, intelligent automation (such as the Hyperscience Platform) can transform the UK public sector’s operations into a new “digital assembly line” of sorts. Machines intelligently automate the classification, extraction, validation, and enrichment of data from citizen documents, looping in human employees to provide oversight when needed.

The Hyperscience Platform automates against your organization’s desired accuracy levels, and when the machine is not confident in its results, it will bring a “human-in-the-loop” to review and aid its understanding of the datal. This not only ensures that the data you’re acting on downstream is accurate, but also improves automation rates over time as the machine learns based on the help the humans provide.

Intelligent automation is already being leveraged by government agencies outside the UK to automate their mission-critical processes, including by a large cabinet level U.S. federal civilian agency. While their old solution only reached roughly 77% accuracy rates, today with the Hyperscience Platform, they’re exceeding over 96% accuracy and 99% automation. Despite the complexity of their systems and infrastructure, they were also able to be securely up and running with Hyperscience roughly two months after the contract was signed.

Transforming To A Citizen-Centric Model 

The future of the UK public sector should focus on freeing employees to spend their time providing services to citizens, enabling them to make a tangible impact. The only way that’s possible is by designing a work process that puts humans at the centre of how digitisation is leveraged.

Intelligent automation provides the functionality and flexibility required to adapt for the needs of current citizens and the future of the UK government. Interested in learning more? Download our guide on streamlining UK government efficiency or listen to our webinar on how government agencies can increase efficiency with intelligent automation.