ExecutiveBiz spoke with Dominic Delmolino, chief technology officer for Accenture Federal Services, about the impact that artificial intelligence is having in the federal market, how agencies are working to implement AI, and the creative ways it could be used in the future.
Prior to joining Accenture Federal Services, Delmolino served as vice president of architecture and engineering for Agilex Technologies, as senior director of database architecture for Network Solutions and as senior practice director of Oracle Corporation for a decade.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the most exciting ways that natural language processing and AI are influencing the federal market?
Delmolino: I’m very interested in the broad impact of AI, especially chatbot capabilities. Chatbots have become more useful because AI advancements enable them to more broadly understand natural language which has created some excitement about their potential. We’re now beginning to see how AI can influence the way work gets done and help us understand what works and what doesn’t.
There’s also significant interest in robotic process automation that goes along with the push to an increasingly digital government. AI can automate some of the tasks that government workers are required to perform. An “AI assistant” can do the mundane parts of the job, so the workers can focus on issues that need their judgement. It’s very exciting to see people become more efficient by working with artificial intelligence so they can do their jobs more effectively.
ExecutiveBiz: Why are some federal agencies struggling to implement AI technology?
Delmolino: The first reason is that they haven’t thought through a workforce engagement plan or a communications plan. There’s a lot of uncertainty about how to engage the workforce and what AI will bring to the agency. Government workers are hungry to hear how AI can help, but they haven’t heard a clear message yet, and the agencies aren’t sure how to formulate that message. Because employees play a key role in training, sustaining and interacting with intelligent technologies, they should be engaged in every step of the process and encouraged to continuously learn.
Another reason is the quality of data being used to train AI. Agencies are constrained by the kinds of data they’re allowed to keep. In order to train with AI effectively, agencies need good examples of data and need to be able to demonstrate how AI goes through its decision-making process. People in the workforce need to trust that AI is making explainable decisions. And for AI to work effectively, it needs to learn how to handle similar situations in the future.
ExecutiveBiz: Which federal agencies are making the most progress with AI technology?
Delmolino: There’s been a lot of talk regarding how defense and intelligence agencies are using AI to sort through the massive amount of data they have. The establishment of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) was a huge sign that defense agencies are thinking through the governance approach for AI. It’s good to see that they’re thinking about ways to deploy, manage, monitor and oversee AI and are taking steps to protect it. I think they’ve been clear about their motivations, and I am impressed thus far.
In the private sector we are seeing chief financial officers learn to automate routine financial transactions that are necessary to support their business. I suspect you’re going to see similar financial agencies in government deploying AI for those same purposes. To use those systems effectively, they may need some additional help from a budgetary standpoint.
ExecutiveBiz: How would you like to see AI tech used that no one else has thought of yet?
Delmolino: I’m looking for a much broader use of AI technology for the government workforce. I’ve been so impressed with the creativity of individuals when they’re given the tools to solve problems. I’m excited to see more government workers with an AI assistant. I’m excited for explainable AI that is trustworthy so it’s really like a trusted coworker. Seeing more people take advantage of the technological benefits is what I’m looking forward to in the future.