IT leaders at the Federal, state, and local levels are looking forward to the adoption of artificial intelligence and automated technologies and expect to add automated capabilities soon. But many agencies are already using foundational AI technologies without recognizing it, according to a new study from MeriTalk.

The “AI is Out There” study, conducted by MeriTalk and underwritten by Arrow and NetApp, finds that 90 percent of IT managers sensed a shift towards the use of AI technologies in the last two years, and 69 percent of Federal managers want their agency to be one of the first to adopt AI. That excitement has translated to planning as well – 75 percent of Federal respondents and 60 percent of SLED (state, local, education) respondents say AI is part of their organization’s technology roadmap.

While AI may seem right over the horizon, it might actually already be in place at government agencies. While only 14 percent of respondents report that they have fully implemented AI technologies, 61 percent report that they have implemented AI foundational tech, like voice assistants, high performance computing, and chatbots.

“Federal, state, and local governments, and higher education institutions are already implementing AI,” said Russ Braden, technical solutions architect at Arrow Electronics. “Foundational technologies like video analytics and natural-language processing (NLP) solutions are providing many day-to-day benefits that simplify customer assistance and help free up time for employees.”

While agencies may have foundational solutions in place, further adoption is just over the horizon. The survey shows 29 percent of Federal respondents and 23 percent of SLED respondents are currently implementing AI in their organization, with 21 percent of Feds and 31 percent of SLED IT managers closely behind in the planning stage. Similarly, 35 percent expect AI to become a cornerstone of their organization’s operations by next year, with 26 percent expecting 2025 for their organization.

“As AI becomes more prevalent, we can expect improvements in cybersecurity, data analysis, risk management, fraud detection, and much more,” said Mason McDaniel, CTO at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

To enable full adoption of AI, agencies will need to address the existing gaps that could serve as potholes on their AI journey. Only nine percent feel that their staff is completely prepared for AI on a knowledge  basis, 13 percent think their data organization is fully prepared, and 15 percent think their IT infrastructure is completely ready for AI. In total, only 15 percent feel their organization is fully prepared for AI.

“Agencies must start to simplify, accelerate, and integrate their data pipeline as a first step to developing a broader, more complex AI strategy,” said Rob Stein, VP, U.S. Public Sector, NetApp.

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