Immigration signs up for IBM's Watson

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Immigration signs up for IBM's Watson

Machine learning employed at new agency.

Australia's immigration department has signed up with IBM to trial its cognitive computing platform Watson over 11 months in order to more effectively manage its "information overload" problem.

The agency said 25 analysts will feed unstructured data from sources such as news feeds and government reports into the US-hosted Watson platform.

The trial will involve up to 10 million open source documents relevant to selected strategic, operational and tactical intelligence activities, the agency said.

It will add relevant new documents on a weekly basis.

"The trial will enable the portfolio to gather insights into particular intelligence interests while also allowing us to map out their relationships," a spokesperson told iTnews.

"Watson will then return evidence for its assessments in the form of selected passages from the text that it based these intelligence assessments on."

Head of the major capability division Randall Brugeaud said the department was looking at how cognitive computing could complement Immigration's existing set of risk management capabilities.

"The internet, coupled with modern information and communication technologies has the potential to serve up huge amounts of useful data to our analysts; but this creates the risk of information overload," Brugeaud said in a statement.

"We are hoping that Watson will allow us to more effectively manage the information overload problem by detecting signals in the very noisy world of unstructured, open source data. Being able to rapidly expose connections between otherwise isolated threads will allow us to become more effective in our mission."

Immigration joins a number of Australian organisations who are utilising the platform.

ANZ Bank is feeding customer’s relevant financial data into Watson manually on an anonymous basis to make a product recommendations, while Victoria's Deakin University is loading student records into the system for student support.

The use of Watson at Immigration is part of a broader program to enhance capabilities in the soon-to-be integrated Department of Immigration and Border Protection, which from July 1 will include the new Australian Border Force.

The merger is a result of a recommendation from the Government's 2014 Commission of Audit to merge the border control functions of Immigration and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service into a ‘single, integrated border agency’.

The Government last year announced it would adopt the recommendation and establish the Australian Border Force - Immigration's new operational arm - from July 1 this year.

The merger has already led to several organisation reforms, one of which saw the Customs CIO role dissolved and the executive who held it - Brugeaud - appointed into a new IT transformation position.

Brugeaud's major capability division is a new unit responsible for the design, coordination and implementation of all new major capabilities across the new immigration entity (apart from air and marine).

Matt Yannopoulos, who has served as Immigration’s chief information officer since August 2013, continues as CIO of the merged body. 

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