The potential of artificial intelligence in the public sector

artificial intelligence in the public sector
© Ekkasit Keatsirikul |

Here, we find out some ways in which the GDS is leading digital transformation in government, including the priorities of the organisation’s Interim Director-General and the enormous potential of artificial intelligence in the public sector

In essence, the Government Digital Service (GDS) helps government work better for everyone by leading digital transformation (1). In August 2019, Alison Pritchard was named Interim Director-General of the GDS (2), now that Kevin Cunnington has taken on a new role promoting government services around the world. (3)

Alison recently shared her journey in government so far and discussed what she looks forward to delivering over the coming months. Long before she joined any government department, Alison already had experience of meeting user needs and delivering more for less. Alison explains that she was given the chance to run the garden bar at the family pub at the age of eight. While she was only dealing with soft drinks and nibbles, this experience taught her that first, people appreciate good service. Alison elaborated on her thoughts at this point.

“They liked to be listened to, they liked to be served quickly and efficiently. They also like to get the best value for money; it turns out asking them how much change they need generates some interesting revenue outcomes.”

Alison was a systems analyst and systems designer at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and she also worked in the Equalities Office, for example, heading up the latter for the roll-out of gender pay gap reporting. Amongst other roles, she has an impressive background in various government departments, such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), HM Treasury, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Her current aims include accelerating momentum on the GDS’s business, including all the vital tasks around EU Exit. While this is a huge part of GDS’s efforts, she also outlined her bold digital goals.

We also need to build our future, setting the boldest goals for digital advancement across government, a big push on data analytics, digital identity and embedding of innovation. To do that, we need the right resource, capability, powers and influence.

“And I have a duty to help land permanent leadership of GDS in away that we don’t miss a beat and so we can springboard into the future state for digital government.” (4)

Artificial intelligence (AI) in the public sector

Back in June 2019, the GDS and Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI) published joint guidance on how to use and build artificial intelligence (AI) in the public sector. In essence, this guidance covers how to assess if using AI will help you meet user needs; how the public sector can best use it and; how to implement AI fairly, ethically and safely.

In the Ministerial Foreword to this, we find out that daily, AI is changing the way in which we experience the world and we already use it to locate the fastest route to get home, filter out spam emails or alert us of suspicious activity in our bank accounts, for example. In closing, I’ll leave you with some words from the Ministerial Foreword which highlights the importance of AI to the public sector, the impact it could have on the global economy and how it will help GDS deliver more for less, the latter point which we alluded to near the start of this article.

“The UK government recognises the importance of this technology’s development to both business and the public sector. Indeed, Artificial Intelligence and Data was named as one of the four ‘Grand Challenges’ in the Industrial Strategy White Paper, which are global trends that will transform our future and contribute to the government’s long-term plan to boost productivity in the UK.

“PwC estimates that AI could contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. The UK is in the top three countries globally in the development of AI technologies and this strength puts us in a prime position to unlock this projected global growth. The same estimates indicate AI could increase our productivity by 14.3% and grow our GDP up to 10.3% by 2030.

“There are huge opportunities for government to capitalise on this exciting new technology to improve lives. We can deliver more for less, and give a better experience as we do so.” (5)




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