Artificial intelligence can contribute to cheaper and more efficient handling of payments to avoid cheating and financial crime.
In Sweden, the government now wants to set up a new body which will handle all state payments and transfers. The aim is to prevent fraud and financial crime. However, the answer to the challenges is not to create more bureaucracy, but to use digitalisation and artificial intelligence. The technology that is needed to coordinate large and complex quantities of information already exists. Using it is far cheaper than establishing another state institution.
It is not enough to sprinkle digital dust on existing structures
Most countries have a strong need to digitalise, automate and use artificial intelligence within the public sector. The benefits, both financial and for the population, will be substantial. Despite political speeches, we are still finding that there an inadequate understanding of both the opportunities and the challenges that the technology can overcome. Far too often, we see cases where digital dust is simply sprinkled on top of existing structures, without changing the working methodology or routines. What is needed is innovation. We must learn from countries that have progressed further than we have, in order to make the most of the opportunities that are presented by digitalisation.
Algorithms offer better quality and legal certainty
If you decide to replace an ordinary administrator with algorithms, quality and efficiency will both improve, and therefore so will people’s legal certainty. There is no reason not to highlight these opportunities, or to consider the integrity dimension at the same time. Aggregating large quantities of personal information, particularly national ID numbers, could pose a threat to personal integrity. Considerable caution is needed and a careful balance must be struck between different interests. Nevertheless, if this is done in accordance with the applicable regulations, the level of risk will be reduced if this is left to algorithms. Eliminating human error can actually promote personal integrity.
We must not forget either that the information must be protected from intrusion and leaks. Collating all data in one place risks increased vulnerability for society. The consequences of data theft can be very destructive. From this perspective, it may be better to disseminate the information via a number of “interfaces”.
New opportunities offer robustness and societal benefits
Utilising artificial intelligence to coordinate complex information from many different public bodies is a good example of how the new technology offers new opportunities to build robust systems with substantial societal benefits. Nevertheless, all the talk about digitalisation is virtually invisible in the (Swedish) political everyday world. This can quickly lead to enormous and unnecessary costs, and weaken competitiveness in relation to other countries. We already have measurements which show that other countries are overtaking us as regards digital maturity. It is therefore critical that the politicians are not blind to what artificial intelligence can offer society, regardless of whether it concerns health and care or payments from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration.
Welfare must be streamlined through digitalisation
Both Norway and Sweden must modernise their public authority structure, partly in order to maintain the welfare level. This can take place through digitalisation, artificial intelligence and innovation, particularly within health, care and education.
How Sweden (and no doubt Norway) strengthens itself in the global technological shift which is currently taking place should be a much more important political topic than it is. It should permeate the political everyday world and priorities in a very different way than it does at present.