Artificial intelligence has become an essential tool in our daily lives and has fundamentally altered the ways in which we communicate and work with one another.
In recent years, the federal government has sought to advance AI technology development and adoption through a number of important initiatives, including the National AI Initiative Act, the AI in Government Act, and the National AI Advisory Committee, which advises the president on issues of U.S. competitiveness and enhancing AI opportunities across the country. While these efforts underscore the government’s commitment to AI research and innovation, federal leaders should pay special attention to policies and programs that bolster entrepreneurs. Startups and small businesses develop and introduce new AI-enabled solutions and accelerate the implementation of AI tools across the public and private sectors.
Driving AI innovation
Entrepreneurs and small businesses have long served as the primary drivers of innovation in emerging technology. In fact, small firms regularly produce more patents per employee than large firms, and these patents are typically associated with higher technological impact and growth.
Enhancing AI innovation and adoption in the United States and sustaining our nation’s leadership position in this technology can be supported through a policymaking environment that not only creates meaningful opportunities for AI entrepreneurs and small businesses, but also removes cumbersome barriers, including the high cost of computing resources, the lack of high-quality data and the shortage of AI talent. These challenges impact companies of all sizes, but they are often acutely felt by entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Government agencies can help lower these barriers and support AI entrepreneurs and small businesses by drawing on its role as a buyer, regulator and infrastructure provider of technology. Four examples exemplify how government can activate these roles:
1) Expand access to low-cost computing infrastructure: Start-up businesses often face challenges when it comes to obtaining essential resources, such as cloud computing systems. The government can help eliminate this barrier by incentivizing large technology firms to increase access to critical products and services.
2) Convene cross-sector consortia to overcome data obstacles: Joint initiatives like the EU’s Partnership on AI, Data and Robotics can help stimulate industry investment, boost academic cooperation and mobilize public-private partnerships in an effort to address low-quality data barriers. The U.S. interagency’s critical role in advancing and coordinating COVID-19 vaccine development offers another template for stimulating and networking rapid technological advancement. The federal government can take a similar approach by establishing a cross-sector body that encourages collaboration and information sharing across the United States.
3) Develop open-market work visas for AI talent: The government can help increase America’s AI talent pool by adjusting employer sponsorship requirements for foreign AI professionals so that emerging technology firms can more easily tap this talent resource.
4) Support contracting certification programs: Federal agencies can work with emerging technology companies throughout the AI development process to help ensure that these new technologies meet rigorous FedRAMP standards. This kind of constructive collaboration can help improve efficiencies and resource allocation and prevent entrepreneurs from being crowded out of government contracting due to lengthy and costly certification processes.
Paving the way for future AI advances
AI is poised to continue driving dramatic impacts and advances in the public and private sectors. The future of AI will likely be shaped in part by the countless entrepreneurs and small businesses that catalyze innovation, and by the ability of government to nurture and support these innovators.
By applying the right tools, rules and resources, the federal government can promote an environment that enables AI-driven small businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive. It’s time for government to help foster the next generation of cutting-edge AI technology and innovation.
Tasha Austin is a principal with Deloitte & Touche LLP. She helps lead Deloitte’s artificial intelligence and data analytics practice for government and serves as the director of the Deloitte AI Institute for Government.