But by deploying AI, governments expose themselves to the same risks as companies – such as building bias into algorithms. And because of their regulatory role, it only takes a big data breach, such as the recent compromise of personally identifiable information of 30,000 US Department of Defense personnel, to damage trust in government irreparably.
This complex picture is why we recommend that governments use a “trusted AI” framework. This will make sure they not only consider how an AI-based system performs, but also identify and mitigate the risks inherent in every stage of the solution. For example, they can make it clear to citizens that they’re dealing with an algorithm as a service, so they can opt out or transfer to a human.
What exactly is AI and how can it help governments?
The growing expectations of citizens is just one of the challenges facing governments today. Rapid urbanization, an aging population and complex socio-economic problems are putting public services under strain. And with low economic growth keeping budgets down, governments need to find solutions that are both efficient and sustainable.
AI is a set of technologies and capabilities that can help governments to solve these challenges. It does so by supplementing certain human competencies or, in some cases, replacing them.
It consists of three main areas:
- Sensing. AI can augment or replace human sensory capabilities, speeding up simple tasks such as visual detection. For example, AI software can automatically analyze street and traffic cameras in real time. So governments can make the best use of public transport, reduce pollution and manage the flow of traffic.
- Thinking. AI and related technologies, such as machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing, can analyze and process large volumes of data much faster than humans, and in some cases, more effectively. Some governments are already using these technologies to help teachers fill the gaps in teaching and learning – for example, by carrying out admin tasks and tailoring learning to different pupils’ needs.
- Acting. AI and related technologies such as intelligent automation (think virtual assistants or chatbots) can take simple decision-making tasks off humans. This frees up time for front-line workers to focus on activities that improve services and the citizen experience. During the Winter Olympics in South Korea, for example, several humanoid robots, equipped with AI-powered translation software, were used to provide information to visitors and athletes.