Tech designed for coronavirus panic means a brighter future for Americans

Most Americans have little awareness and understanding of the utilization of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and how the technology can solve some of society's most challenging issues, often seen as mundane.  The segment is often referred to as the RPA industry.  RPA is growing leaps and bounds as the federal government and the private sector look to keep their employees safe, and for every way to rid their employees of less important work so citizens can focus on increased higher-value work for mission achievement and resulting greater customer satisfaction.

I, Dr. Rehr, for example, had little knowledge of this industry until the George Mason University Business School received a generous in-kind $16.4 million in software license support contribution from UiPath, one of the leading companies in the RPA industry.  UiPath's donation is aimed to help GMU Business School graduates accomplish two things: first, to become better equipped technologically and build on the possibilities of A.I. and RPA to increase business processes' efficiencies, and second, to free future employees from repetitive tasks so the workers can focus on higher-value priorities in the workplace.

COVID-19's ubiquitous impact has motivated many of these companies to help fight the virus directly or aid institutions that are changing their traditional business practices because of the danger posed to human life by the virus.

UiPath is not the only RPA company in the space.  There are many others, including Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, Pegasystems, and Kofax, just to name a few.  But we are struck by the interesting work UiPath is doing, combining machine learning and RPA technology into a single deployable model to shorten hospital backlogs and compressing the COVID-19 diagnosis timeline by 50% or more, while also improving accuracy and patient care.

Joining UiPath is Pegasystems Inc., a Mass.-based computer software company, empowering digital transformation at the world's leading enterprises, announcing on March 20, 2020, the launch of a free app to help its clients track the spread of COVID-19 among employees and maintain business continuity in the face of the global pandemic.  These data help the private sector make more informed decisions to keep employees safe and businesses moving forward.  Employees self-report their COVID-19 status via a short set of risk assessment questions.  Their answers feed into the status dashboards and trigger a series of automated actions that guide affected employees, their managers, and human resources with instructions on how manage their situation.

Because of the outbreak of the COVID-19, online education has also exploded with students returning home for the spring semester.  To continue their courses, these schools and universities are transitioning from in-person to online courses — which also means that I.T. resources might be scarce.  While most students have access to laptops or desktops, supervision can prove difficult due to a lack of proctoring hardware.  TypingDNA, another company in the AI sector backed by Google's Gradient Ventures, offers identity and access management (IAM) solutions.  TypingDNA has stepped in to help with exam proctoring and students' remote authentication and started giving schools and universities a pro bono typing biometrics authentication API service within the schools' learning management platforms.  The technology allows students to prove their identities by simply typing a short text on their keyboards while  protecting them from cyber-trolls.

A.I. technologies has offered business and enterprises RPA and IAM best practices so companies unaware of the advantages of automation and keystroke dynamics can prepare for the post COVID-19 world.  The RPA industry could dramatically help the underlying economic conditions of the private sector, expanding and assisting business to become more efficient as resources will start out being limited because of the pandemic.

America is focused on what the federal, state, and local governments are doing to fight this pandemic.  But our private-sector innovators and RPA creators are using advanced tools to fight the virus while helping American companies to improve their operations when the pandemic passes, as it will. 

Dr. David K. Rehr is a professor and director of the Center for Business Civic Engagement at the Schar School of Politics and Government at George Mason University.  He is also the host of the podcast Advocacy and Influence, available on all podcast platforms.

Dorin Munteanu is principal of Transilvania Group, a Washington, D.C.–based business management and policy advisory firm.  His work focuses on emerging technologies and their impact on people.