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Government and the brave new world of digital customer experience

Rob Fitzpatrick | March 20, 2017
We’re used to sophisticated digital services in many parts of the private sector, so why not the public sector?

AIIA CEO, Rob Fitzpatrick
AIIA CEO, Rob Fitzpatrick

Cast your eye around and by all public accounts, it seems the federal government has lost its way with innovation. A former jewel in prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's crown has lost its sparkle.

There's no shortage of competing political priorities, of course, but there seems to be a simplistic view that innovation, social change and risk taking with technology doesn't win votes.

It's an easy argument to make, however it turns out the Australian public has not lost interest in digital innovation. Quite the opposite, in fact. When it comes to technology, Australians are ready for change and are expecting the government to lead from the front with courage and creativity.

A recent survey by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), conducted ahead of the AIIA's Navigating Digital Government Summit in Canberra on Wednesday 5 April, shows our national enthusiasm for technology continues to rise. This is especially true when it comes to government services - after all, who doesn't want a better experience when dealing with a government agency?

Our survey reports almost all Australians (99 per cent) believe they would benefit from government using the latest technologies to improve service delivery. Though new to government, technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual assistants, natural language processing etc., increasingly feature in private sector service offerings - raising the bar of expectations for all customers.

Harnessing these technologies must also be key to transforming the government's delivery of customer experience. The digital transformation construct is not an end in itself. With the pace of technology change it is inevitably a journey and one that government needs to genuinely buy into if it is to meet the public's expectations.


Where government is getting it right

And in many ways it already has. Digital transformation is well underway, and inspiring examples of customer service innovation do exist.

Take for example how the government is pushing the boundaries with its avatar "Nadia", recently announced by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Developed by New Zealand artificial intelligence startup Soul Machines, Nadia is a virtual assistant that provides verbal and written information about the NDIS to people with disability when and how they want it. The voice of actress Cate Blanchett is used to help personalise the service and make it, as much as possible, an authentic 'human like' experience.

Nadia can already answer the most common questions people have about the scheme and its machine learning capabilities enable its knowledge base to grow and evolve. The challenge will be retaining the authenticity and accuracy of the human interface as the complexity of enquiries increases. We know the technology works, but ensuring the integrity of a truly personalised, human like interface in a dynamic online context that satisfies customers, will inevitably take time.


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