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Joe Tibbetts is the publisher and managing editor of i-D Information Daily; Public Service Digital and Council News Monitor. He anchors the Reality Bites podcast; & AnswerTime the InformationDaily.TV panel show; chairs conferences, and advises organisations on how to get heard.

@Joe_Tibbetts

Growing AI in the public sector

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© Many Wonderful Artists, AI, June 2017

An independent report released last week has suggested how the public sector should further adopt and utilize Artificial Intelligence in its delivery of public services.

A government-commissioned report concerning the future of AI in UK was released last weekend (Sunday October 15). The report, carried out by Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and Jérôme Pesenti, CEO of BenevelentTech, identifies 18 recommendations around the development of skills, data, research and adoption of AI within UK.

The report discussed the need for better use of and ease of access to data, as well as the need for government funding to develop a “deep AI expertise” within the workforce. While it states UK is in a position to build on its AI and technology pedigree, challenges such as lacking trust in data sharing and a lack of applicable education and skills development need to be met.

A key area where this needs to be addressed, the report argues, is in the public sector.

Some Government departments and agencies already utilize AI in their services, however, the report suggest more benefits will come from a greater uptake of AI technology in public services. Such uptake will improve the flow and analysis of information in public services, streamline decision-making in complex areas, allow better management of new and increasing data resources and improve efficiency, effectiveness and usability of services, argues the report. This, in turn, will help deliver better outcomes for service users and generate significant efficiencies through reduced costs.

However to achieve these goals, it is clear that there is a need to spread “AI-readiness” across the public sector. This can only come from senior decision-makers identifying and making informed decisions about the spread of practical guidance and best practice.

The report goes on to elucidate how this can be achieved. Working in collaboration with the GDS, the Data science partnership and data experts across the public sector, the report states the Government “should develop a programme of actions to prepare the public sector and spread best practice for applying AI to improve operations and services for citizens.”

This programme would include; “Sandbox environment[s]” to allow for secure testing of approaches to AI and machine learning technology; “Monitoring and preparing for changes” to allow for development and support for skill changes; connecting “AI experts with datasets held by the public sector” and; “Demonstrator projects” that would demonstrate how AI can assist in the protection of individuals’ interests.

The report then goes on to suggest a role for a “dedicated public sector AI innovation fund” into which public sector departments could bid for funding for AI demonstrator projects to help develop a national pipeline of expertise in the field. This fund would negate the need for public service leaders and policy-makers to compete for internal budgets to test applications.

 

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