How can the UK public sector reap the benefits of AI?

Clear standards of conduct and greater transparency will enable UK public sector to reap the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The Committee on Standards in Public Life have published its report and recommendations to the Prime Minister to ensure that high standards of conduct are upheld as technologically assisted decision making is adopted more widely across the public sector.

Jonathan Evans, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life said: “Honesty, integrity, objectivity, openness, leadership, selflessness and accountability were first outlined by Lord Nolan as the standards expected of all those who act on the public’s behalf.”

The public sector will benefit from AI as it signals a major transformation in the way public sector bodies make decisions and service the public.

Evans continued: “Demonstrating high standards will help realise the huge potential benefits of AI in public service delivery. However, it is clear that the public need greater reassurance about the use of AI in the public sector.

“Public sector organisations are not sufficiently transparent about their use of AI and it is too difficult to find out where machine learning is currently being used in government.

“Explanations for decisions made by machine learning are important for public accountability. Explainable AI is a realistic and attainable goal for the public sector – so long as public sector organisations and private companies prioritise public standards when they are designing and building AI systems.”

How will the government tackle data bias?

Data bias remains a serious concern. Further work is needed on measuring and mitigating the impact of bias to prevent discrimination via algorithm in public services.

Evans continued: “Our message to government is that the UK’s regulatory and governance framework for AI in the public sector remains a work in progress and deficiencies are notable.

“The work of the Office for AI, the Alan Turing Institute, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) are all commendable. But on transparency and data bias in particular, there is an urgent need for practical guidance and enforceable regulation.

“We conclude that the UK does not need a new AI regulator, but that all regulators must adapt to the challenges that AI poses to their specific sectors. We endorse the government’s intentions to establish CDEI as an independent, statutory body that will advise government and regulators in this area.”

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