The Covid-19 pandemic has uprooted centuries of social and economic norms and exposed human frailty in all its glory. Countries have been forced to rethink work as we know it.

Having a resilient and adaptive workforce is now one of the key mandates to rebuild a strong economy. Software and bots are beginning to play a larger role in this, allowing people to cope with increased workloads like in the healthcare sector, or work remotely as has now become the norm in many other areas.

What will this “digital workforce” look like, and how can it help governments cope with the uncertainties ahead? Experts at Automation Anywhere explain.

Humanistic automation

A digital workforce weaves together disconnected automation tools – Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI, and machine learning – to think, act and analyse the way a human worker would, and work alongside humans. “You just treat them like a human worker,” says Edmund Tsui, Director, Enterprise Sales, Automation Anywhere.

This makes them a class above traditional RPA bots. Digital workers represent a new “role-centric” approach to automation, while bots are typically “process-centric”, adds Markoss Martina, Senior Director of Next Generation Technologies, Asia Pacific, at the company.

A digital worker, for example, can automate the role of an accounts clerk. By implementing a combination of bots, the digital clerk can automate recurring tasks from invoice and receipt processing to payment. The tool is also equipped with analytical capabilities to monitor digital process efficiency and effectiveness.

The company builds software that allows organisations to build their own digital workforce. They can build bots for specific roles by choosing from a library of skills and tasks. Digital workers will eventually be able to operate with little to no supervision as they learn an organisation’s practices and priorities.

These digital workers are meant to work alongside humans to elevate their work. “What a digital worker really does is take the boring work away, and they’re going to actually start to give employees more meaningful work to do,” says Martina. This way, employees are freed up to focus on work that truly requires human cognition or creativity.

With digital workers around, employees can also go through upskilling programs to be redeployed to other departments where “a human will be more effective in getting the job done”, Tsui says.

Business as usual

This approach can allow governments to build in greater resilience into their workforce. Digital workers don’t succumb to illnesses and thus are a more resilient alternative for roles that cannot be carried out from home, says Martina.

Being able to operate round the clock also ensures business continuity in these unprecedented times. “If the human workforce can’t really operate, digital workers can be quickly activated because they can actually just be switched on, in simple terms. Since they already have the skills, you don’t have to find people all around,” Markoss emphasises.

This comes in handy especially as more public service employees are deployed to the frontline or as safety distancing ambassadors in Singapore, Tsui says. Digital workers can take over and ensure “business as usual”, says Tsui. The workers can ensure that there are no delays in the services provided to citizens.

In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service used an AI-powered IQ bot to process Covid-19 cases with speed and accuracy. The clinical data and case forms were given to help the World Health Organisation quickly identify trends. The risk of error ws reduced and people were freed up to focus on service delivery to patients.

The inexorable shift to digital was just around the corner – the pandemic only accelerated it. A digital workforce may be a beacon of hope, a firm foundation for economies to rebuild upon as we prepare for the next storm.

To find out more on how automation can elevate government performance, please check out Automation Anywhere’s website.