As budgets shrink and older employees retire and prove difficult to replace, many federal agencies find themselves asked to do more — deliver more services in more efficient ways — with less investment and less manpower. The good news is that technology can help.
That’s the gist of a new Deloitte report on how “digital reality” can help to “enhance government services.” If you’ve never heard of digital reality, you can be forgiven — it’s essentially an umbrella term for a bunch of technologies including augmented reality, virtual reality, 360-degree video and more. Digital reality, the report states, “gives workers tools to interact with digital data in the real world.”
Real-world applications can look like a U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) project where the agency created a 360-degree immersive experience to show potential job candidates what a job at a slaughterhouse would actually be like. This can save the agency from investing training resources in a candidate who’s not a good fit.
“About 20 to 25 percent of candidates said they would not work in a slaughter plant,” Dean Norman, the former distance learning manager of FSIS, said in the Deloitte study. “That’s exactly the reaction we want. If you don’t think you can do it, it is better to know now than after we have spent the money to train and relocate you.”
Other examples include a Department of Veterans Affairs study where researchers found that a virtual reality (VR) training program helped veterans with post traumatic stress disorder gain confidence in their job interview skills.
More futuristic possibilities include equipping first responders with augmented reality glasses that would allow them, for example, to see in real time the blueprints of a burning building. The same kind of technology, the report argues, could aid security officers at airports. “In the crowded space of a terminal, digital reality can highlight behaviors that even well-trained security personnel might miss,” the report states.
The report also addresses challenges that agencies face in implementing digital reality technologies — cybersecurity considerations, an abundance of legacy systems, conflicting requirements and adequate funding.
But these difficulties can be overcome, the report suggests, by doing things like balancing cybersecurity risk with potential benefit or starting with a small pilot to get buy-in from agency leadership (and the attendant funding).
“Digital reality has the potential to transform the way government uses data,” the report concludes. “With its variety of applications and ease of use, digital reality can help to improve the performance of employees in the workplace, delivering better services to citizens for less.”