Are government services ready for 5G?

AI, machine learning, and 5G are all developments that will help government services by reducing friction in the customer service experience. 5G connectivity will profoundly impact the delivery of government services.

Originally published on the Government Experience portal on February 10, 2019 under the title ‘5G Will Create New Sectors in Government Services’

By Xische Editorial, February 10, 2019

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The race to 5G is a topic of intense interest in the mainstream press. With the United States and China in a veritable arms race to create the first viable 5G network and infrastructure, discussion about the connectivity technology can sometimes have a political complexion. Beyond politics, however, developments in 5G will have an incredible impact on the delivery of government services.

The new connectivity infrastructure promises to deliver wireless network speeds as much as 100 times faster than the current 4G standard. Such speed will enable a variety of new technologies to become commonplace and more advanced. Driverless cars, for example, will take advantage of the new speeds to propel the industry forward. Doctors will be able to perform surgeries from virtually anywhere they can connect to 5G. Internet of Things devices will also see a huge benefit from the speed increase. Any device or service that relies on wireless internet technology will get a major kick out of 5G speeds.

For government services, 5G’s impact will be primarily felt in the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI). AI systems can help governments free up employees’ time to deliver more personalized experiences. The goal is to tailor services for customers in ways that are cognizant of their busy lives and specific needs.

In order for AI to reach its full potential, enormous amounts of data are required to feed machine learning. Intelligence is acquired through the absorption of information and the ability to understand how that information can influence decisions. Human intelligence is acquired through years of experience, decision-making, and trial and error. AI systems have to compress similar experience in a comparatively short time. Thus, any system that improves the acquisition of raw data and information is going to accelerate the learning curve of an AI system as a whole.

China, as one of the world’s leaders in AI research, understands this dynamic well. Since 2007, the Chinese have increased AI research by nearly 400%. This research has real-world applications that could have an impact on the development of government services. Using AI and machine learning, China is in the midst of creating a massive system that tracks the behavior of citizens. Imagine you are waiting to board a flight in Beijing but once you hand over your boarding pass, you are informed you are not allowed to get on the plane because you have a history of rowdy behavior in public.

By using AI to organize large amounts of data about citizens, China is creating a single database that can be used across society. Police activity, just as a history of rowdy behavior, will be accessed by airlines or landlords. The more data a person creates thanks to faster 5G connectivity speeds that enable the use of new data-collecting technologies, the more China’s tracking system will know about citizens.

But it is not all doom and gloom. While most theories about how China’s tracking system will develop highlight the surveillance aspect and power to deny service, the fact is that AI-enabled data collection systems could make life better for the majority of society. This is especially true when it comes to government services. Using data about an individual’s driving habits or work hours, service offerings could be tailored to the individual. Imagine getting a text message informing you that your appointment at the municipality has been changed to better accommodate your work hours and traffic patterns. Or having the full attention of a government representative because that person has all the data about your case already presented in an orderly fashion.

AI, machine learning, and 5G are all developments that will help government services by reducing friction in the customer service experience. These technological innovations make the messy work of collecting and storing data about residents and citizens easier for governments. With this step out of the way, more resources can be devoted to improving the customer experience, which is where the real promise of technology is realized for the majority of society. Beyond the politics over 5G, faster connectivity will have unforeseen and positive effects for the delivery of government services.