Government releases AI guidance for public sector organisations

The new report from the Government in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute is one of the most thorough and comprehensive pieces of guidance on AI in the public sector.

Chloe Green | 11th Jun 19
Image shows robot greeting a human in a public setting

The UK Government has published new guidance on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the public sector.

The report, led by Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI) and the Government Digital Service (GDS), with The Alan Turing Institute’s public policy programme contributing, notes that uses for AI in the public sector are wide ranging and significant, but need to be balanced with ethical, fairness and safety considerations.

Many public sector organisations are already using AI for services ranging from fraud detection to answering customer queries. To date, the new guide is one of the most thorough and comprehensive pieces on AI in the public sector, discussING the potential harm cased by AI systems and offers concrete solutions and measures which can be operationalised.

The authors also stressed that public sector organisations can anticipate and prevent harm by creating a stewarding culture of responsible innovation and putting in place governance processes. These measures can help the design and implementation of equitable and safe AI systems.

Professor Helen Margetts, Director of the Turing’s public policy programme, said: “Policy makers have an enormous opportunity to use data science and AI to design more effective policies, to track policy impacts more accurately, and to improve the provision of public services.”

“The publication of the UK government’s guide on ‘Using artificial intelligence in the public sector’ is an important step towards maximising the public benefits of these technologies. We are delighted to contribute the guidance on AI ethics and safety and set out our vision of how government can use AI ethically. By prioritising ethical considerations, policy makers will be able to innovate with confidence and reap the benefits of these technologies.”


Ethical intelligence

Some of the AI considerations were laid out fully in a section of the guide titled ‘Understanding artificial intelligence ethics and safety’ by Dr David Leslie, Ethics Fellow in the Alan Turing Institute’s public policy programme.

Commenting on the significance of the work, Dr David Leslie said: “There is no better or more important part of society to lead the charge in the UK’s pacesetting role as a global leader in responsible AI innovation than the public sector. Our talented and dedicated Civil Service colleagues will be able to do a tremendous amount of social good if they approach the design and implementation of AI systems by making the realisation of ethical purpose and the pursuit of responsible practices of discovery a first priority.”

“This will require that they ask right questions such as: What shape should the data-driven society of tomorrow take? How will the values and motivations currently driving technological advancement in AI both influence our future ways of life and transform our identities?”


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