AI holds the potential to vastly improve government operations and meet the needs of citizens in new ways, ranging from traffic management to healthcare delivery to processing tax forms. But many public institutions are cautious about harnessing this powerful technology because of concerns over bias, privacy, accountability, transparency and overall complexity. New incidents are emerging of negative consequences driven by the use of AI in areas such as criminal sentencing, law enforcement and even employment opportunities. Governments do not have the luxury of using inscrutable “black box” algorithms that are increasingly characterizing AI deployed by industry. As citizens increasingly demand the same level of service from their governments as they do from innovative private -sector companies, public officials will be required to identify the specific benefits this complex technology can bring while also understanding the negative possibilities of the tools created using AI.
This project convenes stakeholders across sectors to co-design guidelines that will empower governments to confidently and responsibly procure AI as well as guide their own internal development of technology that utilizes AI. A number of governments have committed to pilot these guidelines to test assumptions about their efficacy and impact, iterate the guidelines based on this learning, and share the updated versions publicly to encourage international adoption. Since governments have limited budgets and often struggle to separate hype from substance regarding new AI products, this project will also collect input and provide guidance on the most effective use cases of AI within government, as well as those that are immature, unproven, fraught with uncertainty or risky.
These guidelines will empower governments to responsibly deploy and design AI technology for the benefit of citizens. At the same time, governments’ significant buying power can drive private – sector adoption of these standards even for products that are sold beyond government. And, as industry debates setting its own standards on these technologies, the government’s moral authority and credibility can help set a baseline for these discussions. These indirect methods of influencing the trajectory of AI provide a softer alternative to regulation, particularly needed in an arena where traditional governance measures are too slow in the face of fast-paced technological change, especially in AI. While companies are generally wary of stricter guidelines for government procurement, this project builds on numerous case studies where common-sense frameworks can help governments overcome reluctance to procure complex new technologies and actually open new markets for companies.