Looking at the Future of Tech.

Position:News & Numbers

Even relatively small local governments are starting to use artificial intelligence (AI) applications --mostly in the form of chatbots--according to "Ready for What's Next," a report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and the Center for Digital Government. These virtual assistants can answer many questions the public requests, like times and dates for garbage pickup, and the applications have become affordable for smaller governments.

Still, state and local governments haven't adopted the technology in great numbers--a 2017 survey of state and local public officials done by the Center for Digital Government found that fewer than 30 percent of respondents were interested in AI, and fewer than 16 percent were already using it. In comparison, half of public companies use some form of AI.

Experts don't see chatbots as the future of government AI applications. "The real impact of AI will be in less obvious solutions, such as law enforcement, public benefits, human services, and Medicaid," according to the report. "We're at a tipping point where interesting things are happening, now that we have more computing power and data to make AI applications."

Blockchain is another tech area that some state and local governments are investigating. According to the report, "government's more common databases can be improved by blockchain to make them simpler to operate, more secure, and less costly. Possible uses range from motor vehicle and land record registry transactions to authenticating professional licenses and managing birth and death certificates. Some have even suggested that blockchain could make voting more secure."

"The issue around blockchain is that it requires quite a bit of collaboration and cooperation," the report says. "It's a chicken-and-egg technology, where the technology has been around for a while, but will require larger adoption before it's accepted." The Center for Digital Government survey found that more than half of respondents said they were somewhat or very unfamiliar with the concept of blockchain, while nearly 55 percent said they did not know if there was a level of interest in using blockchain within their agency or department. And more than 90 percent said there were no plans to use blockchain, or they did not know of any plans to use the technology.

In general, implementing...

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