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Home >UK Government first to pilot AI Procurement Guidelines co-designed with World Economic Forum
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UK Government first to pilot AI Procurement Guidelines co-designed with World Economic Forum

30 September 2019

The World Economic Forum, the international organisation for public-private cooperation, has released the world’s first government procurement guidelines for artificial intelligence (AI). The United Kingdom will be the first to pilot or test these guidelines, potentially accelerating the use of artificial intelligence in the public sector.

Governments want to acquire AI solutions to streamline processes and provide insights into key sectors such as transportation, healthcare and public services. However, officials often lack experience in acquiring such solutions and many public institutions are cautious about harnessing this rapidly developing technology at a time when we are only beginning to understand the risks as well as the opportunities.

Growing public concerns around bias, privacy, accountability and transparency of the technology has added an extra layer of complexity to a potential roll out on a national level. The AI Procurement Guidelines for Governments have been designed help officials keep up with this rapidly developing technology and mitigate the risks.

The guidelines were co-designed by the World Economic Forum’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning team and fellows embedded from UK Government’s Office of AI, Deloitte, Salesforce and Splunk. Members of government, academia, civil society and the private sector were consulted throughout a ten-month development process, which incorporated workshops and interviews with government procurement officials and private sector procurement professionals.

The report provides the requirements a government official should address before acquiring and deploying AI solutions and services. It also provides the questions that companies should answer about their AI development and how the data is used and processed. The guidelines also include explanatory text elaborating on how to implement, key questions to ask and case studies.

“AI solutions hold the potential to vastly improve government operations and administer public benefits to citizens in new ways, ranging from traffic management to healthcare delivery to processing tax forms,” said Eddan Katz, AI Project Lead, World Economic Forum. “These guidelines empower governments and international bodies to set the right policies, protocols, and assessment criteria that will facilitate effective, responsible and ethical public use of AI. Once standards are set and widely adopted, we could see new policies emerge to help navigate an uncertain ecosystem.”

“How government buys services for taxpayers has an impact far wider than the public sector - by taking a dynamic approach we can boost innovation, create competitive markets and support public trust in artificial intelligence,” said Minister for Digital Matt Warman. "These new guidelines place the UK at the forefront of procuring AI and will help the public sector better serve the public, make it easier for firms bidding for new contracts and set a world standard in how governments work with artificial intelligence.”

“New uses of AI that are of interest to government will continue to emerge and will bring with them both benefits and risks,” Katz said. “It is important that governments prepare for this future now by investing in building responsible practices for how they procure AI.”

By leveraging the role of governments as market actors, the AI guidelines for procurement could have a significant impact on the shaping of norms throughout the industry of AI solutions providers. The standardization of ethics and risk management expectations will likely extend across other sectors in the market.

The World Economic Forum’s Unlocking Public Sector AI project is bringing together a multistakeholder community to empower government officials to more confidently make responsible purchasing decisions. Over the next six months, governments around the world will test and pilot these guidelines. Further iterations will be published based on feedback learned on the ground.

 
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