3 ways that generative AI can help transform human services

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COMMENTARY | Generative AI can help government workers complete time-consuming administrative tasks, address gaps in agency operations, reduce wait times and improve language translation services.

As we mark the second anniversary of the Biden administration’s Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery, Generative AI is helping reimagine the way that government agencies deliver critical human services — like child care, housing and utility assistance, nutrition benefits, cash assistance, employment and training programs, Medicaid, long-term care and refugee assistance — to individuals and families across the country.

While generative AI has the potential to revolutionize many areas of the federal government, its impact could be especially significant within human services delivery. Public servants in this field are under immense pressure in today’s environment. They aim to meet the public’s expectations for timely and high-quality services while working tirelessly to manage record levels of casework — all amid an increasingly competitive market for talent.

Safe, secure and trustworthy generative AI technologies can help government workers deliver more seamless human services by helping complete time-consuming administrative tasks, address gaps in agency operations, reduce wait times and improve language translation services, among many other potential applications.

To safely and effectively harness generative AI in human services delivery, government leaders can lean on three key strategies.

Identify the right technology for the task at hand

In order for agencies to choose the right generative AI tool or application for specific challenges, it’s important to first understand the kind of tasks best suited for generative AI. To start this process, agencies should inventory their services and determine which specific programs could benefit from generative AI technologies.

For example, documenting and recording information is the most time-consuming task in government — averaging 10% of federal and state workers’ time and totaling more than 400 million hours annually for federal workers alone. To relieve the burden on these caseworkers, leaders might enlist generative AI to help build first drafts of analytical reports or assemble and summarize initial versions of required documentation. Human services workers can then review these initial drafts to ensure clarity and accuracy, and then determine the next course of action for each specific case.

Establish checks and balances

Agencies can create necessary checks and balances in the way services are delivered by knowing when to deploy human oversight in processes that use generative AI. Doing so can help enhance public trust in the safety and efficacy of this cutting-edge technology. 

According to a MITRE Corporation poll from September 2023, only 39% of U.S. adults believe that today’s AI technologies are safe and secure. By pairing the technology with human oversight, government agencies can guard against improperly trained or unsupervised algorithms that introduce the risk of biases, privacy issues and inaccuracies or hallucinations. Ensuring generative AI models are properly trained on high quality and secure data will also help agencies successfully implement generative AI in human services workflows.

Reimagine outmoded systems and processes

To maximize the benefits of generative AI, government leaders must be willing to modify existing processes to fit the technology. In fact, according to a recent Deloitte survey, agencies that significantly change their workflows to align with generative AI capabilities are 36 percent more likely to achieve the desired outcomes of projects that incorporate AI. 

Changing long standing workflows takes time — and agencies should not overwhelm existing systems and processes by altering everything at once. A careful and deliberate effort to determine which human services have the most critical need for generative AI improvements can help make implementation manageable in the near term and drive greater long-term success.

Generative AI holds tremendous promise for alleviating the strain on caseworkers and improving the experience of individuals and families interacting with human services agencies. By taking the right steps to determine where generative AI can make the most impact, layering the technology with human oversight, and developing workflows that are conducive to generative AI’s most effective applications, agencies can help transform the way that individuals and families receive critical support and resources. As emerging technologies like generative AI become commonplace, let’s all challenge ourselves to push the boundaries of innovation and discover new ways to enhance the public’s experience with government services.