How do you spell the future of government IT? AI. While that’s not going to get you too many points on the triple word score in Scrabble, the technology and applications will unscramble massive dividends in cost savings, service enhancements, and breakthroughs.

Gail Thomas, vice president U.S. public sector, and Kimberly Nelson, executive director state and local government solutions at Microsoft tipped over their AI, IoT, and blockchain toy box of applications running in the Azure cloud for us last month–and it’s anything but child’s play. Microsoft is building advanced tech services into its cloud offering to help new and disruptive application development partners accelerate into the government space.

Happy Families

Let’s start with the challenges in managing child adoption–a problem that’s been accentuated by the opioid crisis. Today in America, there are more than 400,000 children in foster care–the drug epidemic has more than tripled the number of filings for children in need of services in some counties in recent years.

Enter developer Foster Care Technologies’ Every Child A Priority (ECAP) system. It’s a for children and foster parents–the system helps case workers make better and faster decisions about where to place children with the best-fit foster families. Powered by an AI engine, the system draws on historical data and insights from social workers. The quicker you can place a child in a best-fit foster home, the better the outcome for the child.

ECAP decreased poor matches and cuts–which result in children bouncing from home to home–by 22.5 percent. It also accelerated the average time to placement by two months. Researchers from Kansas University School of Social Welfare attest that children placed to date with ECAP had 18 percent fewer home moves and got to a permanent home 12 percent more quickly than those placed through traditional systems.

Deployed in seven states, ECAP is hard at work at Baltimore (Md.) City Department of Social Services and at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services. An application that helps fix fractured families–that’s happy.

Refugee Relief

And, jumping from stateside social services to global refugee care, Microsoft and developer AID Tech are putting blockchain to work in Lebanon. Did you know that 30 percent of global relief funding is stolen out of the mouths of the hungry by corruption? While this is not a victimless crime, it is a faceless one–because it’s impossible for aid organizations to know who’s a refugee and who’s a crook. Some 2.4 billion people globally have no digital identity. AID Tech allows relief workers to create digital identities–by taking photographs and then verifying/reconciling them on the back end using blockchain. An application that puts aid in the bellies of the truly needy and keeps it out of thieves’ pockets–that’s a relief.

Stormy Weather

From managing the torrent of refugee relief to stemming flooding in our cities, Microsoft and Opti are providing smart infrastructure systems to improve urban water management. Climate change means that today’s storms are both more intense and localized. At the same time, increasing development in cities means more paving and less exposed soil/ grass–natural water cleansers. Together, these factors severely tax aging city sewer systems in cities across America–exacerbating urban flooding.

Opti Continuous Monitoring and Adaptive Control (CMAC) draws on IoT deployed sensors to automatically control the timing and rate of storm water flow through municipalities’ water management and sewage facilities. It allows towns and cities to plug in forecast data and predict problems before they become crises.

CMAC improves water quality, prevents flooding, and reduces sewage overflows.  At the same time, it delivers significant cost savings over traditional approaches–Opti says CMAC’s price point is 50 to 90 percent lower than traditional systems. Taking the IoT lead from CMAC–seems the forecast is good for smart infrastructure management.

From AI to IoT to blockchain, innovation is happening in every corner of our economy. Microsoft and its Azure development partners are setting the pace for change.

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Steve O'Keeffe
Steve O'Keeffe
The most connected executive in the government technology community – O'Keeffe is an accomplished entrepreneur and tech-policy expert, with 30 years’ experience as an innovator at the crossroads of government and industry. He founded MeriTalk, O'Keeffe & Company, 300Brand, among other entities. O'Keeffe is a fixture on the Hill, in both the House and Senate, testifying on IT, budget, government workforce, and the requirement to modernize government IT to enhance outcomes for the American people and government employees. He is a champion for change, simplification, transparency, and clear communication of IT value without jargon. A committed philanthropist, O'Keeffe has served for 15 years on the USO-Metro Board of Directors – Vice Chairman of the Board and Chair of the Annual Awards Dinner. He started his career as a journalist – O'Keeffe has contributed to The Economist, Government Executive, Signal Magazine, The Washington Post, and, of course, MeriTalk.