Automation and artificial intelligence, an opportunity to strengthen the public sector

CAF stresses that this can generate complementarity effects, increase employment in a significant number of tasks and generate employment in the public sector in the region


Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have brought new challenges for governments and countries, including developing a workforce with the right profiles and skills to adapt to the transformation that jobs in different sectors will undergo in the future. 

According to a study conducted by CAF "Potential impact of the use of artificial intelligence in public employment in Latin America", although certain tasks within occupations can be automated, which would imply a displacement of human labour, the effect of automation, there are others for which technology, instead of substituting, complements or enhances human labour and allows workers' productivity to increase.

Emerging technologies and in particular artificial intelligence (AI) have become drivers of economic transformation in multiple sectors and industries. They also have high disruptive potential to transform public administrations in the digital era, improving the definition of public policies, the delivery of services to citizens and the internal efficiency of administrations.

Positive effects of automation and AI on employment may be even greater than the displacement effects of human labour. For example, studies on the relationship between automation, productivity and employment in 18 countries over the period 1970-2007 concluded that technological progress increases aggregate employment, as reductions in employment in automated industries (direct effect) are offset by increases in employment in other related consumer industries and by increases in aggregate demand in the economy (indirect effect).

However, public administrations face the challenge of developing comprehensive strategies for training digital talent, covering all levels of organisations, with specific strategies for segments such as the management team, specialised areas (information and communication technologies, data science, public innovation) and areas that respond to the entities' mission objectives.

"The world's leading companies in technology adoption, including AI, are implementing strategies to ensure that their current and future workforces have the knowledge and skills needed in the new environment, and are prepared to take advantage of new technologies through four types of strategies: coaching and training programmes, workforce skills diagnostic systems, creation of cross-functional teams to drive AI adoption, and creation of new roles and employee empowerment initiatives to achieve cultural change," says Guillermo Cruz Alemán, author of the study.

The AI/4RI skills development strategies recommended in the CAF report are classified according to three approaches and different profiles of public servants: (i) reskilling oriented to employees whose tasks may be replaced by automation or AI; (ii) upskilling for AI or IT specialists, non-specialist users, managers and other workers of the entities with customised content according to the respective profiles; and (iii) recruitment of new employees with the hard and soft skills required by governments.

"AI has a high disruptive potential to reset public administrations in the digital era. At CAF, we promote digital modernisation to foster more agile, open and innovative governments, which rely on new technologies and data intelligence and promote improvements in the efficiency of administrations and the quality of services to citizens," said Antonio Silveira, CAF's Manager of Physical Infrastructure and Digital Transformation.

In recent years, governments and companies globally have become aware of the disruptive potential of 4RI technologies, especially AI. These technologies are increasingly being implemented to increase efficiency and productivity, as well as to improve business insight and design and implement better services for users. 

CAF has expressed its commitment to become the Green Bank of Latin America, an ally of governments and the private sector to achieve development goals in all Latin American countries.