The fourth industrial revolution has finally reached Number 10, and it could change the face of modern-day governance as we know it.

In a speech on the government’s industrial strategy, Theresa May announced her support for artificial intelligence (AI), pledging millions of pounds for research to develop machine-learning technologies to detect cancer earlier in NHS patients

“The development of smart technologies to analyse great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than is possible by human beings opens up a whole new field of medical research and gives us a new weapon in our armoury in the fight against disease,” she said.

Read more: PM: Robots can prevent 22,000 annual cancer deaths

May’s AI ambitions, however, should not just stop at the Department for Health, as the whole UK government and public sector could dramatically benefit from embracing the fourth industrial revolution.

To understand the potential, take a look at the productivity gains that AI and the internet of things (IoT) are already offering in the private sector.

Most technology-savvy consumers will have heard of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, two popular smart personal assistants. These devices are changing the way we live, and decreasing friction in our interactions with our homes – manual processes, such as pulling down your blinds or turning on your oven, can now be done seamlessly by verbal commands.

Combined with machine-learning, IoT devices are also changing the way businesses operate. To give you a flavour of the innovation already at work, manufacturers can now use a combination of IoT and AI to predict when their machines will fail, allowing the company to avoid downtime and reduce maintenance costs.

It’s not just about traditional factory operations either. The dairy industry is benefiting from the “connected cow”, by which sensor technologies and deep-learning can provide a complete health monitoring service for cattle, and as a result increase milk yields.

There are gains to be made for the whole economy as each industry – from agriculture to financial services – embraces this transformative technology. That’s why it is no surprise that McKinsey recently predicted AI techniques have the potential to create up to $5.8 trillion in value annually, across 19 different industries, and that IoT could generate up to $11.1 trillion per year in economic value by 2025.

Now it’s time for the government to get involved on this revolution.

While AI and IoT are sometimes associated with worries around large, omniscient states, this technology actually has the potential to lead to smaller, smarter government. If the productivity and efficiency gains in the private sector can be emulated, our institutions could become leaner and more effective, saving money and transforming public services.

This has already begun, in a department not usually associated with cutting-edge innovation. HM Revenue and Customs is leading the way with its Automation Delivery Centre, which has seen time-consuming tasks, such as scrolling through case files, automated so that the civil servants are not bogged down. Taxpayers’ money is saved, and staff move away from menial tasks – a win-win.

This model could be replicated across the public sector, from delivering on big infrastructure projects in the most efficient way, to offering support to growing businesses, to tracking the effectiveness of government initiatives.

This isn’t just a domestic opportunity. With Brexit looming and as the government seeks to carry out its Global Britain agenda, May could seize the technology initiative and attempt to position the UK as a world leader in AI, IoT, and other nascent technologies.

As digital secretary Matt Hancock told delegates at Davos in January: “you could call it the fourth industrial revolution for government – and it will be those that adopt this digital technology that will thrive”.

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