Human Services in ‘augmented intelligence’ push

New Canberra centre of excellence launched

The Department of Human Services has officially thrown open the doors of a new Canberra-based centre dedicated to driving the adoption of AI across government

The department said that the Augmented Intelligence Centre of Excellence would work with industry and academia, with other government agencies also encouraged to collaborate with the centre.

“Augmented intelligence is not about replacing people with machines, but rather about developing ways to better support our people and further enhance the customer experience for the millions of Australians who rely on our services,” said human services and digital transformation minister Michael Keenan.

Earlier this month the department announced the launch of Charles, a new digital assistant based on Microsoft’s Azure Bot Service and designed to provide support channel for myGov account holders. Charles joined Sam and Oliver, two other public-facing digital assistants operated by Human Services.

Oliver was launched in March 2017 and is designed to answer questions relating to Austudy and Youth Allowance. Sam was launched in June 2017 and is accessible on the department’s students, trainees, jobseeker and families web pages. The department also has staff-facing digital assistants.

Keenan recently launched the government’s digital transformation strategy, which envisages all government services being available online by 2025. AI will “play a major role in making this happen,” the minister said.

“In the not too distant future, I envisage that Australians will have access to fully customisable virtual assistants that will be able to speak any language, be able to talk people through each step of an online application form, or even let them know if they are eligible for a benefit without being prompted.

“It is an exciting future and the work that will be done by the centre of excellence will lay the foundations for these changes to become a reality in the not too distant future.”

Human Services CIO

At the start of the month the department confirmed that ANZ chief technology officer Michael McNamara would join Human Services as chief information officer.

McNamara’s role will begin in January, with Charles McHardie continuing to act as CIO until then.

In April the department began the hunt for a CIO to replace Gary Sterrenberg, who left Human Services to focus on his PhD. Human Services has described the role as “arguably the most significant role of its kind in Australia”.

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Tags governmentDepartment of Human ServicesMichael Keenanartificial intelligence (AI)augmented intelligence

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