Involving government early is critical for emerging tech adoption

As private industries continue to innovate, individuals will expect their experiences with government to keep pace.

Today’s technology trend, artificial intelligence, is dominating headlines and captivating the attention of every industry, including government. But with any emerging technology, the government’s adoption and deployment requires more care and attention than most industries — and rightfully so.

The integration of new technology is complicated by the government’s responsibility of collecting and safeguarding more personally identifiable information than any other industry. For example, the Department of Homeland Security is working to replace their existing biometric identity management system that houses hundreds of millions of identities, a change which the Government Accountability Office emphasizes needs to address potential privacy risks associated with this transfer of data.

While DHS is just one example, it represents a challenge governments all over the world are facing: the rapid acceleration of technology. As private industry innovates, government needs to keep up — whether due to necessity or sustainability — but they also need to mitigate risk.

So how can governments address this precarious issue?

The solution is more cooperation between private and public sector to ensure technology either meets the needs of government or is built for government. To best do this, collaborative, thoughtful efforts to test, assess and create policy around emerging technologies are necessary.

Test and assess: Involve government early when developing technologies

Letting government test and assess new capabilities in the early stage of product development is critical to ensure readiness. Private sector technology companies should partner with government on pilot programs that enable testing of new capabilities or novel use of existing capabilities.

A recent Office of Personnel Management playbook, “Workforce of the Future,” emphasizes the importance of AI in federal workforce initiatives and shares a use case of an Air Force pilot program leveraging AI to aid staffing specialists and improve the qualification process.

As AI capabilities lead discussions, news and private industry adoption, government would benefit from piloting this emerging technology with industry peers. Private industry should collaborate with government to discuss best uses, benefits, security concerns and feasibility of adoption.

Testing and assessing technologies in tandem with governments of all types and sizes ensures those new capabilities will be purpose built for government; taking into account the unique needs as well as security and privacy concerns public sector organizations face. This initial work can be leveraged to inform policy and shape decision-making with positive impact on the government workforce and the individuals they serve.

Purpose-built policy helps shore up emerging tech utility across government

It’s no secret government would benefit greatly from building policy around technology before adopting it. Take social media for example: It was rapidly adopted before widespread policy was developed, resulting in inconsistent procedures, uses and policies across the government.

Currently, there are several efforts underway to address considerations for widespread use of AI in the general public and government. For instance, the National AI Advisory Committee (NAIAC) is comprised of experts from private sector, academia, non-profits and civil society with the purpose of:

(1) ensuring continued United States leadership in artificial intelligence research and development; (2) leading the world in the development and use of trustworthy artificial intelligence systems in the public and private sectors; (3) preparing the present and future United States workforce for the integration of artificial intelligence systems across all sectors of the economy and society; and (4) coordinating ongoing artificial intelligence research, development and demonstration activities among the civilian agencies, the Department of Defense, and the Intelligence Community to ensure that each informs the work of the others.

While not explicitly stated, the NAIAC would benefit from gathering feedback from collaborative pilot programs and advisory boards that factor in feedback from all types of governments to ensure residual policy is considerate of the findings and applications of AI.

Further, as public sector operates within constrained budgets and experiences workforce shortages, benefits of workflow automation to offset existing gaps should be considered in policy development.

As private industries continue to innovate, individuals will expect their experiences with government to keep pace. This creates an interesting challenge for governments, which need to innovate to provide easy-to-use services while treading carefully to ensure technology adoption doesn’t outpace governance and policy for its use.

With current technology trends showing no sign of reversing — and AI dominating interest — it’s critical government and private sector collaborate now so that purpose-built capabilities and related policies stay ahead of mass adoption.

Bob Ainsbury is chief product officer at Granicus. 

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