The Federal Employment Agency (BA) should play a pioneering role in the field of automation in the public sector: Andrea Nahles (SPD), Chairwoman of the BA, confirmed this goal at the second Human Friendly Automation Day (HFA-Day), which the BA organized this year. For Nahles, automation is “not a means of rationalization or downsizing. Automation is rather part of the solution in times of demographic change and a shortage of skilled workers. We have to act transparently, take the employees with us and continue to offer meaningful and appreciative work.”
Human Friendly Automation
Human Friendly Automation (HFA) is a network of experts founded by Lars Schitlow, Head of Digital Change at IBM, that tries to put people at the center of the essential automation processes. Employers should use the relief for employees created by automation to train their employees and enable them to use the latest technology. For this, the HFA relies on four values: humanity & autonomy, development & empowerment, holistic & long-term orientation as well as openness & transparency. These guidelines are based on the eighth sustainability goal of the United Nations, the desire for dignified and valuable work.
Practical example: automated mail receipt at the BA
At this year’s HFA-Day, however, the aim was not only to come up with concepts, but also to underpin the principle with a concrete application example. As a proof of concept, the BA presented an automated e-mail program developed by IBM, which is installed in front of the user’s client. The lecture mainly dealt with the implementation of the HFA guidelines and the involvement of the BA employees affected by the process.
IBM’s Human Friendly Mail Automation is intended to relieve the employees of the Federal Employment Agency, who have to process around 3.2 million e-mails annually. The main problems identified by the employees are that the message history is often missing with senders whose exact identity is unclear and the messages first have to be distributed to the right person in charge. As a result, instead of being able to respond quickly to inquiries, the emails wait a long time to be processed.
In order to help the BA’s clerks, an AI is now installed upstream of the e-mail reception. The program filters the messages according to characteristics such as the sender’s name, a customer number, the subject, the type of attachment and certain keywords. The AI then sends the request to the relevant clerk and assigns a priority to the request. According to Michael Becher from IBM, the program should also be able to recognize moods such as an angry writing style and include it in the decision-making process.
Automation against the shortage of skilled workers
Andrea Nahles named the guidelines of the HFA network as important pillars of the digitization offensive she launched for the Federal Employment Agency. In general, the experts present saw the relief of employees through automation as a remedy for the prevailing shortage of skilled workers. There is also a lack of specialists in the areas of data processing and AI development that are important for automation. In addition to immigration, the Federal Government also wanted to counter the problem with training and further education. The further training of the existing workforce is in line with the participation wishes of Human Friendly Automation.
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