Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation

Media release: DHS Launches Augmented Intelligence Centre of Excellence

27 November 2018

The Hon Michael Keenan MP

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation

Harnessing the power of augmented intelligence to help deliver faster and better government services will be the focus of a new AI Centre of Excellence operated by the Department of Human Services.

The Canberra-based centre, which officially opens today, will play a lead role in driving the development and adoption of AI across government to ensure all agencies can take full advantage of the benefits this cutting-edge technology has to offer.

DHS is already a leader in AI adoption, with three customer-facing digital assistants now operating on the agency’s online platforms that have helped to answer more than 2 million enquiries since June 2017.

DHS staff are also benefiting from the rollout of the technology, with internal virtual assistant Roxy answering more than 2 million questions from DHS personnel in the past two years.

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said the technology underpinning those assistants was rapidly evolving and the centre of excellence would ensure Australia stays ahead of the curve with future developments.

“Augmented intelligence is not about replacing people with machines, but rather about developing ways to better support our people and further enhance the customer experience for the millions of Australians who rely on our services,” Minister Keenan said.

“For example, our customer facing assistants Sam, Oliver and Charles are helping reduce the need for DHS clients to have to call us to get a question answered, saving Australians considerable time and also reducing demand on our busy phone lines.

“The same goes for our staff who can save considerable time by using Roxy to answer their questions quickly and accurately, which ultimately helps to speed up claim processing.”

The centre of excellence will work collaboratively with industry and academia to ensure world’s best practice is incorporated into the design of all new systems. The collaboration will also ensure that any regulatory or ethical considerations are addressed before rollouts take place.

Other government agencies will also be encouraged to contribute their expertise and gain insights from the work being done by the centre.

“The Government has committed to the delivery of all government services online by 2025 and AI will play a major role in making this happen,” Minister Keenan said.

“In the not too distant future, I envisage that Australians will have access to fully customisable virtual assistants that will be able to speak any language, be able to talk people through each step of an online application form, or even let them know if they are eligible for a benefit without being prompted.

“It is an exciting future and the work that will be done by the centre of excellence will lay the foundations for these changes to become a reality in the not too distant future.”

As part of the AI centre’s official launch today, industry leaders and government agencies have also been invited to showcase their technology to an audience of high-ranking public servants from right across government.

Exhibitors include IBM, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Trellis Data.

Page last updated: 27 November 2018