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. AI system utilization can:
At the same time, AI raises concerns about bias, security, transparency, and budget and procurement processes. 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.
To continue to develop AI systems, the federal government, in particular, must play a leading role by facilitating AI research and development and protecting the nation’s AI technology base from adversaries and competitors. Accordingly, governments at all levels must work collaboratively to promote public trust in the development and deployment of AI tools; train an AI-ready workforce for both the public and the private sectors; and address the ethical concerns about AI’s potential downsides in the areas of discrimination, civil liberties, and privacy.
Public agencies and administrators will be key in helping government become AI ready by developing new policies, systems, and processes to ensure that these systems can be harnessed to inform decision-making, provide insight on the public’s needs and perspectives, increase public communications, and improve service delivery. Because governments will have far fewer employees performing data entry or other repetitious tasks, they will need to retrain employees and reshape their workforce to ensure it has the core competencies required to oversee, manage, and develop AI systems. And schools of public administration and public affairs will need to be more intentional about incorporating AI, along with related technical and data skills, into their core curriculum.
As part of the Grand Challenge of “Making Government AI Ready,” the Academy will work with stakeholders to determine how to:
This is an illustrative list of topics. As the Grand Challenges campaign kicks off and progresses, other issues can and will be addressed based on stakeholder feedback about critical needs and opportunities.