While the implications of AI-driven solutions can be complicated, certain opportunities exist for their use that offers objective and essential benefits. The public sector is one such area that is ripe – and perhaps long overdue – for a digital transformation.
Waiting in line at the DMV is an infamously painful experience shared by anyone who has had the unfortunate fate of needing federally issued documents in the United States. Considering that these documents are necessary to qualify for and benefit from many government services, it is vexing that the infrastructure in place is still slow enough to be parodied as an animated sloth in a children’s movie.
But for many, the archaic and inaccessible process of the DMV is no laughing matter. People in lower socioeconomic circumstances experience obstacles that, coupled with the notorious inefficiency of DMV offices, could render these essential documents a near impossibility.
In-person requirements for accessing documents and services restrict access to those without reliable transportation. Long wait times take away hours from work or childcare. Even if you reach the front of the line, the long list of required items to bring sometimes means you don’t have everything you need and will have to come back and repeat the grueling odyssey.
Government agencies aren’t exactly known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new technology. Still, as REAL ID requirements in 2025 inch closer, it is imperative for this infrastructure to improve. By leveraging new advancements in proving and affirming identities and leveraging the mobile capture of documents, government entities can drastically improve their efficiency and accessibility.
Existing Online Services are Unsatisfactory
Many state governments already offer online services, but like their in-person counterparts, these platforms are notorious for being tedious and providing a poor user experience.
The Nevada DMV eliminated most walk-in services in August of 2022, now requiring appointments in most cases apart from Saturdays, maintaining normal walk-in availability. Officials cited staff shortages and high customer demand as the primary factors behind this decision, aiming to encourage the use of online services that are often overlooked in favor of the brick-and-mortar office.
A glance at Oregon’s online identity verification system might indicate why this is the case. The Oregon Employment Department previously required many people seeking jobless benefits to verify their identity through the ID.me system, which has been described as “cumbersome and invasive.”
The platform uses technology dating back to the 1990s, demonstrating not only that archaic practices are not exclusive to the DMV, but that many state governments actively rely on technology that is nearly a third of a century old.
While trudging through an arduous online process is still preferable to a DMV errand for many, those that aren’t tech-savvy enough to make sense of an unfriendly platform will likely opt for the benefits of face-to-face human assistance despite the inconvenience.
The ideal identity-proofing process should be limited to a single screen and take no longer than a few minutes. The previous practice of requiring users to toggle back and forth between multiple interfaces, such as using a printer or smartphone to copy documents and using a computer to email the attachments — reduces the odds of completing the process and increases the chances of user errors.
Citizens should be able to navigate the online portal with relative ease without feeling stuck or distracted. Likewise, staff should no longer be burdened with manually entering and verifying the information into processes. Making these online processes easy and pleasant to use with intelligent automation would represent a significant stride toward accessibility.
Fraud Concerns Stunt Online Services
The elephant in the room when addressing the need for online government services is the increased potential for fraud.
Concerns over fraudulently obtained learners permits through an online test in New York prompted state officials to call for the online program’s immediate suspension. The system showed individuals completing a 50-question test in four minutes. Photos taken throughout the test sometimes revealed that the test taker was not even present.
These obvious fraud cases further erode trust in online platforms and subdue the sense of urgency for their development. Still, federal and state governments can opt to bolster security measures instead of affecting legitimate users in the crossfire by removing online options.
New identity-proofing capabilities can incorporate technology like liveness detection, which verifies that the user is a living human instead of a digital or otherwise spoofed representation. Identity-proofing combats advanced fraud techniques like deepfakes, which use artificial intelligence to create representations of humans that can be eerily believable.
By using these defensive applications of intelligent identity affirmation and document verification, agencies can proactively defend against sophisticated attempts to exploit accessibility options for attaining new IDs or other government services.
Low-Code/No-Code Opens the Door
Government agencies like the DMV adding intelligent automation may sound too advanced for an industry known for being slow adopters of technology, but the democratization of AI has made this a possibility. Low-code/no-code platforms have made previously complex solutions accessible and actionable for those without extensive or formal backgrounds in AI or steep budgets to piecemeal solutions.
Despite their best efforts to create a welcoming end-user experience, software developers are prone to thinking like IT professionals rather than the lay user when designing platforms. This can result in tools with powerful capabilities but confusing interfaces, limited customizability, or other barriers to effective day-to-day use. This misalignment renders even the most advanced digital tools obsolete if the user can’t grasp how to use them.
Low-Code and No-Code Mitigates Discrepancies
Low-code/no-code mitigates these discrepancies through intuitive user experiences that require little to no coding proficiency. Applying LCNC solutions for uses like intelligent document processing (IDP) in the public sector would expedite the digital transformation of government agencies by modernizing outdated systems, streamlining consumer-facing processes (such as citizen onboarding), and maximizing staff resources.
Using LCNC in the context of digital onboarding and identity proofing implies not only an easy process for the citizen, but also for the state or federal employee on the back end that must verify submitted documents.
Replacing clunky, convoluted, and outdated processes with automated and customizable dashboards could drastically improve the speed of issuing identity cards. Low-code/no-code platforms not only encourage improved citizen experiences but make them profoundly achievable for even the most archaic government agencies.
A Word from the White House
Recent activity on Capitol Hill indicates that the federal government is turning its gaze toward tech and artificial intelligence. The recently passed White House Blueprint for AI Bill of Rights outlines how AI-driven technology must work for the benefit of the American public, considering privacy, algorithmic discrimination, safety and efficacy, human alternatives, and more.
While this indicates a cautious approach towards innovation that is characteristic of the public sector, this legislation provides the necessary framework for the responsible implementation of AI.
Furthermore, the White House AI task force has requested $2.6 billion from Congress to fund its effort to make federal AI resources more available to researchers, suggesting strong openness and intention to invest in AI from the federal government.
Innovation for Government Agencies to Consider
From huge strides in innovation to global pandemics, there have been many reasons in the past few years for government agencies to reevaluate their systems and processes. While intelligent automation is still expanding in capability and decentralization, it is already very usable — enough for the California DMV to successfully reduce their REAL ID transaction time from 28 minutes to only 10.
The same use case could be used to obtain benefits from Social Security Administration, Veteran Affairs, and education and healthcare institutions. Government agencies don’t need to wait anymore and should immediately develop literacy in AI-driven solutions, their responsible and ethical use, and the goals they want to accomplish with it.
The earlier the public sector embraces innovation and prioritizes welcoming user experiences, the more lives can be improved.
Featured Image Credit: Yolanda Suen; Unsplash; Thank you!