The Australian Government handles enormous amounts of data and needs to make sense of it, making it a burning hot lead for IBM Watson\u2019s sales teams. Federal agencies are potentially a perfect match for what Watson claims to offer: actionable insights from large amounts of unstructured data via natural language processing and machine learning. And as Big Blue\u2019s \u201ccognitive computing\u201d platform becomes increasingly important to the company\u2019s future \u2013 one of its so called \u201cstrategic imperatives\u201d according to CEO Ginny Rometty \u2013 securing these government clients is critical. Since 2015, a number of government bodies have trialled the products under the Watson umbrella, putting them to work across a range of applications from border protection to trade marks. A number of those trials now complete, agencies are taking stock of Watson\u2019s future in government. Here\u2019s what they had to say. Not proceeding at this stage The Department of Immigration and Border Protection \u2013 the agency its CIO Randall Brugeaud once said was \u201ctaking a leading role in cognitive computing for the Australian government\u201d \u2013 undertook an 11 month Limited User Trial of the Watson Discovery Advisor product in 2015. At the time the department said it would use the Watson to analyse data drawn from sources including news feeds and government reports. The department told CIO Australia that after trials concluded in April last year it had \u201cdecided not to proceed with any further trials of the Watson product at this stage\u201d. Considering the future direction IP Australia, which administers Australia's intellectual property rights system, undertook a 12 week Cognitive Value Assessment \u2013 an IBM program to help potential clients discover quick-win use cases \u2013 in 2015. This trial led to a development of a proof of concept prototype that used Watson to identify if a potential trade mark was acceptable or not based on relevant case law. Following this initial trial, the agency worked with IBM on an extension of the prototype for other trademark-related processes. \u201cThis has now been completed and we are considering the future direction of these initiatives,\u201d said Adrian Jacobs, acting general manager of IP Australia\u2019s business transformation and ICT program RiO. Although the trial had wrapped up, IP Australia \u201cforesees that the Australian Public Service will be able to take advantage of the technology over the coming years\u201d Jacobs added. \u201cWith over 800,000 service requests made to IP Australia annually the agency is exploring new technologies to improve its service delivery in a highly regulated area,\u201d he said. Trials start soon The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), meanwhile, will start trialing an application of Watson within the next couple of months, according to a source close to the plans. The NDIA hinted at its plan to use Watson in October 2015 after head of technology, Marie Johnson and Department of Human Services\u2019 CTO, Charles McHardie travelled to the US to meet with IBM staff and gain access to advances in contextual and human machine interfaces and cognitive computing. The NDIA intends to incorporate cognitive computing functions into a \u2018fit for purpose\u2019 platform that will support Australians with complex physical and intellectual disabilities under the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme. The source said a group of people with disabilities has been working with the agency to help guide the design of the platform. "There's also been wider involvement and consultation (with the community)...around what people with disabilities want and how can Watson support what they want," the source said. Delivered an improvement In May it was revealed the Department of Defence had carried out trials of Watson around psychological operations. Mohan Aiyaswami, the Australian Defence Force's chief technology officer, said at the time the platform had been used for a proof of concept project involving \u2018Target Audience Analysis\u2019 (TAA), which involves analysing intelligence and selecting target audiences that may be effective in realising the goals of a psyop mission. The project utilising Watson delivered an improvement on the timeframe of analysis compared to traditional TAA development methodology. In May last year, Defence said it was looking to use Watson for several high-impact, classified initiatives. Strategic imperative The importance of Watson to IBM\u2019s future cannot be overstated. With its traditional hardware business in decline, IBM is pinning its hopes on \u201cstrategic imperatives\u201d like Watson, cloud and analytics. Success in the government vertical is vital. \u201cIn 2016, our strategic imperatives grew to represent more than 40 per cent of our total revenue and we have established ourselves as the industry\u2019s leading cognitive solutions and cloud platform company," Rometty said in a full year earnings announcement last week. Rometty says Watson is \u201cthe world\u2019s leading AI platform for business\u201d. But heavyweights like Microsoft, AWS and Google are making similar claims. Other AI platforms are being piloted within Australian government. The Department of Human Services is using Microsoft\u2019s Cortana Intelligence Suite to infuse bots with deeper human context and conversational understanding to help agents be more effective. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission are undertaking a pilot of a \u201ccognitive learning tool\u201d with an unnamed regtech firm to reveal unlicensed or misleading conduct in relation to self-managed superannuation fund activities.With IBM's reputation knocked by the Census debacle, and early-adopter trials coming to a close, Watson's ongoing role within government remains to be seen.