For years, supermarket customers avoided the self-checkout aisle, fearing that using technology would only make the process more inconvenient. That’s no longer the case.

Where previously technology was once a barrier, today it is a bridge. With tools such as automation, citizens don’t have to fear inconvenience anymore. Instead, they can expect a more personalised and efficient experience when interacting with the government.

Matthew Tan, Sales Engineering Leader for Southeast Asia at UiPath, shares how automation can improve citizen engagement whether services are delivered over-the-counter, on the phone, or online. Automation also plays a key role in giving citizens the assurance that checks and balances are being adhered to.

Bringing back the human connection

Automation allows government staff to interact with citizens more seamlessly, says Tan. Communication with citizens is measured by quality of service and average turnaround time – two areas that automation is great at improving.

Public servants often have to switch between siloed systems to collect the information needed to help a citizen. Robots can replace these manual tasks by retrieving information and performing data entry, he says.

Officials can spend time communicating with the citizen and anticipating other needs they may have instead, Tan explains. This is especially important for citizen-facing agencies, such as the tax agency or the pensions fund board.

Robotics can also assist the behind-the-scenes data processing that makes services possible. Robots can clear backlogs at a rapid scale, with one example being the United Kingdom Department of Work and Pensions.

The department managed to clear a backlog of more than 2,500 claims per week in just two weeks using UiPath’s robots. The automation was also implemented within 12 weeks, compared to 35 to 40 weeks for traditional application development projects, Tan says.

Automatic accountability

The citizen-government relationship is not only built on seamless communication, but the fundamental principle of trust. Citizens must trust the government to use taxpayer money wisely, and public audits are the way to ensure this, Tan says.

The auditing process involves manual and repetitive tasks that can be replaced with robots, he explains. Automation can instantly bring together data from various sources, speeding up the search for inconsistencies in the records, Tan states.

In cybersecurity audits, robots can help to comb computer systems to ensure system access and password policies are in place. They also scan for dormant and expired accounts, highlighting vulnerable access points before hackers exploit them, he notes.

The best practices for adopting automation

How can organisations best introduce these helpful bots into their systems?

Combining a top-down approach alongside bottom-up experience is the most effective method of adopting automation, recommends Tan. Organisations can start by creating a dedicated Centre of Excellence (CoE).

The CoE would be responsible for an overarching plan for where automation is likely to be needed. The CoE would also be in charge of educating staff on identifying the best places to introduce bots, Tan explains.

Coupled with a bottom-up feedback system, frontline staff are then able to highlight automation opportunities that the CoE may have missed out, he says. This empowers staff to bring about tech innovation themselves, while creating enthusiasm for automation throughout the company, Tan emphasises.

Another area that organisations should take note of is finding the right type of automation. Robot services must be matched with an organisation’s tech competency level to make sure the full extent of capabilities are being met.

Another area that organisations should take note of is finding the right processes to automate. The CoE can assess the level of complexity for each process, encouraging process owners to create their own automation or leaving more complex automation to professional RPA Developers within the CoE.

UiPath offers two versions of its automation development tool to suit various experience levels.  Public officials with no extensive IT or programming background can opt for the simple no-code, drag-and-drop approach. Professional robotics developers in the CoE can opt for advanced programming capabilities to automate more complex use cases.

While it might seem counterintuitive, robots can actually help build better human connections. With the right mindset and expertise, automation tools are one example of how technology can unlock more convenient and efficient citizen services.