Learning from the government’s successful use of emerging technologies

May 26, 2020

Government agencies at all levels are using emerging technologies such as virtual and augmented reality to enhance their operations and improve customer service, according to a new report the Partnership and Booz Allen Hamilton released May 14, called Cracking the Code. These technologies include:

  • Artificial intelligence, which enables agencies to speed up processes, analyze their data to make better decisions and provide services to the public more effectively.
  • Immersive technologies, including virtual and augmented reality, which enable agencies to prepare employees and customers for challenging scenarios. For example, NASA built a virtual reality system to train air traffic controllers to respond to emergencies and help airport planners determine the best location for emergency facilities.
  • Edge computing, which enables agencies to process more quickly and securely the growing amount of data necessary for operating in an interconnected world.

These emerging technologies can advance the government’s ability to deliver critical services and address next-generation challenges. The report includes examples of how agencies use new technologies to:

Speed benefits processing

The Department of Veterans Affairs uses AI technology to improve its disability benefit claim processing and shorten the time that elapses from when the department receives claims to when it assesses them. An algorithm transfers information from a paper form into the department’s management system and matches it with one of the VA’s disability classifications. For example, the AI tool might advance the process by correctly interpreting the term “ringing in my ears” as hearing loss.

Since the AI tool was implemented, veterans have received disability compensation an average of three and a half days quicker than they would have otherwise.  

Identify and contain cyberattacks

When the Office of Personnel Management discovered a major data breach in its information systems in April 2015, which exposed millions of current and former federal employees’ personal information, the agency turned to an AI-powered tool. The tool automatically identified files or users that did not belong in the system, and removed malicious activity from all of its networks, containing much of the attack. The AI technology continues to protect OPM’s system.

Simulate flood preparation

The Federal Emergency Management Agency uses virtual reality to help community officials prepare for floods by putting them in virtual situations, such as a flooded home or school, or in the middle of an intersection of washed-out roads, so they can practice the steps they would take to mitigate damage. In addition to immersing the user in the experience, the virtual realities show how different actions result in different outcomes. For example, officials might see how building storm water runoff channels could alleviate flooding.

Since 2016, FEMA has presented the tool to local officials at conferences and community meetings, and more than 4,000 people have learned the information they need to start mitigation projects.

Improve public safety

San Diego officials piloted a network of edge computing-enabled sensors on 49 city streetlights to improve traffic monitoring and public safety. The sensors collect information on the number and types of cars on the road, and the speed and direction they’re driving, as well as how pedestrians and bicycles use the road. And all the information is processed with edge computing right on the streetlight sensor.

Otherwise, to transfer and analyze the large amount of data from the sensors without crashing the network, the city would need an information system connecting 3,200 streetlights.

The Cracking the Code report includes more information about these success stories, as well as best practices for how agencies can adopt emerging technologies.

To learn more about these emerging technologies, check out these blog posts: