Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows computerized systems to perform tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence: analytics, decision support, visual perception, and foreign language translation. AI and Robotics Process Automation (RPA) have the potential to spur economic growth, enhance national security, and improve the quality of life. In a world of “Big Data” and “Thick Data,” AI tools can process huge amounts of data in seconds, automating tasks that would take days or longer for human beings to perform.
The public sector in the United States is at the very beginning of a long-term journey to develop and harness these tools. Chatbots are being used in citizen engagement systems; AI technology is augmenting decision-making in the areas of cyber security monitoring, public policy modeling, database anomalies, and waste and abuse identification.
Although AI in the public sector can yield numerous benefits—including improving customer service and efficiency, while allowing employees to focus more on core agency missions—it also raises concerns about bias, security, and transparency. With biased data, AI systems will produce biased results. Cybersecurity will be more important than ever to protect against malicious actors that, by taking over AI systems, could do significant damage very quickly. Without transparency, the public may be confused about how key decisions were made. And governments may need to revamp their budgeting and procurement processes to be able to quickly acquire and deploy advanced technologies.
This panoply of issues is why the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) identified Make Government AI Ready as one of the Grand Challenges in Public Administration. This paper by the Election 2020 Working Group for this topic provides information on the key elements of AI and its public administration and policy drivers. The Working Group has several recommendations for actions that the Administration in 2021 (whether reelected or newly elected) should take to address this Grand Challenge. These recommendations are designed to maximize the benefits of AI while protecting America through core values, safeguards, and collaboration.
Please visit the Election 2020 Homepage for more action plans