EXCL: Digital chief on why HMRC must 'embrace AI and machine learning'

Written by Sam Trendall on 20 May 2019 in News

CDIO Jacky Wright tells PublicTechnology that department wants to focus on developing its use of artificial intelligence tools

Developing its use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will be a major focus for HM Revenue and Customs in the coming months and years, according to the department’s chief digital and information officer Jacky Wright.

In the last few years, HMRC’s Automation Delivery Centre has steadily grown the department’s use of robotics and process automation. A year ago, the ADC processed its 10 millionth automated transaction.

Wright (pictured above) told PublicTechnology that, as this automation work continues, attention is now also beginning to turn towards accelerating HMRC’s use of other emerging technologies. 

“I think we need to focus more on AI and machine learning and maturing that,” she said. “Because that will unleash the power of the data we have… so we have more insight, and we're able to anticipate the types of things we need to think about: better citizen-centric services to collect taxes and that fund the public services that we need to provide. And that's not just within HMRC, but anywhere in government.”

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The CDIO said that the tax agency is already making use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies – particularly in its work assessing risk and compliance.

“[Those technologies] are transforming the problems we're able to solve, and how quickly we solve them,” Wright said. “Understanding risk and compliance hinges on our ability to understand patterns. And, in order to do that, we have to embrace AI, machine learning and deep learning. Risking is an area where we are embracing them, and we are really looking… to understand how we can develop more.”

Enabling employees throughout the department to better understand how new technology can be used in their working lives will help drive uptake, Wright believes.

“We're looking at how we roll out AI awareness training across the organisation, so everybody can think about how you can use it and how you apply in your everyday work,” she said. “And that will have a ripple effect in terms of how fast we embrace it.” 

Wright added: “But [that will be] in a balanced way – because we also have to understand the ethics, the security and all of those things that come with embracing new technology and new services.”


Look out next month for a full write-up of our interview with the HMRC CDIO, including lots of insights into the department’s ongoing transformation, the need to build digital skills across the civil service, and how HMRC’s post is evolving its supplier relationships in the wake of the Aspire contract. The interview will be published both on PublicTechnology and in the next edition of our sister title Civil Service World.



About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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