The head of the UK Cabinet Office's Robotic Automation Unit (RAU) has claimed that the interest in robotic automation and AI has reached its zenith within UK government departments and authorities.
According to a report by UKAuthority, a communication channel for public sector decision makers in the digital space, James Merrick-Potter, head of the RAU, said interest in the technology had reached a new high.
Speaking at UKAuthority's March of the Bots conference, Merrick-Potter remarked: "Over the past three months, we've seen a massive shift in attitudes.
"People were unsure at the start, but now they've been coming to us almost by the hour asking how we could build it into their business planning and make sure they are ahead of the game.
"They're realizing this is happening. It's not the future, automation is everywhere and it should be in government. People want to work out how they can go with that."
Merrick-Potter leads of a team which was formed as part of the Cabinet Office's Robotics Automation Partnership with Capgemini. The unit, which has an aim of "supporting departments that want to build things themselves", has so far carried out exploratory work, ran a series of webinars on key RPA topics, and has supported automating services deployment projects for government departments including the Environment Agency and Department for Education.
During his presentation, Merrick-Potter claimed that the UK's tax, payments and customs authority, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), had been leading the charge in terms of government adoption of automated solutions. HMRC committed to RPA prior to the Cabinet Office's launch of its RPA initiative, but since establishing an Automated Delivery Center in 2016, it has deployed approximately 13,500 robots across 78 solutions. The tax authority has also processed more than 15 million transactions via robotic automation.
Merrick-Potter said that while the UK government remained at the early stages of exploiting the technology, it would likely move toward the heart of its transformation plans.
"At the moment we are doing soft basic automation, automating processes as is," he said. "We're doing that because we are about three or four years behind private industry, and it will not dramatically improve services.
"What will really change things is intelligent automation, with AI longer term. It will be a key player in all the transformation programs in government – every business case and process plan we see has an automation line," he added.