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Australia takes stock of IBM Watson's future role in government

George Nott | Jan. 30, 2017
Federal agencies are potentially a perfect match for what Watson claims to offer


Ginni Rometty - CEO, IBM

The Australian Government handles enormous amounts of data and needs to make sense of it, making it a burning hot lead for IBM Watson’s sales teams.

Federal agencies are potentially a perfect match for what Watson claims to offer: actionable insights from large amounts of unstructured data via natural language processing and machine learning. And as Big Blue’s “cognitive computing” platform becomes increasingly important to the company’s future – one of its so called “strategic imperatives” according to CEO Ginny Rometty – securing these government clients is critical.

Since 2015, a number of government bodies have trialled the products under the Watson umbrella, putting them to work across a range of applications from border protection to trade marks.

A number of those trials now complete, agencies are taking stock of Watson’s future in government. Here’s what they had to say.

Not proceeding at this stage

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection – the agency its CIO Randall Brugeaud once said was “taking a leading role in cognitive computing for the Australian government” – undertook an 11 month Limited User Trial of the Watson Discovery Advisor product in 2015.

At the time the department said it would use the Watson to analyse data drawn from sources including news feeds and government reports.

The department told CIO Australia that after trials concluded in April last year it had “decided not to proceed with any further trials of the Watson product at this stage”.

Considering the future direction

IP Australia, which administers Australia's intellectual property rights system, undertook a 12 week Cognitive Value Assessment – an IBM program to help potential clients discover quick-win use cases – in 2015.

This trial led to a development of a proof of concept prototype that used Watson to identify if a potential trade mark was acceptable or not based on relevant case law.

Following this initial trial, the agency worked with IBM on an extension of the prototype for other trademark-related processes.

“This has now been completed and we are considering the future direction of these initiatives,” said Adrian Jacobs, acting general manager of IP Australia’s business transformation and ICT program RiO.

Although the trial had wrapped up, IP Australia “foresees that the Australian Public Service will be able to take advantage of the technology over the coming years” Jacobs added.

“With over 800,000 service requests made to IP Australia annually the agency is exploring new technologies to improve its service delivery in a highly regulated area,” he said.

Trials start soon

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), meanwhile, will start trialing an application of Watson within the next couple of months, according to a source close to the plans.

 

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