Unlocking Public Sector Artificial Intelligence

Guidelines for the responsible and effective procurement of artificial intelligence by governments to better meet the needs of citizens and enhance public services

The challenge 

Artificial intelligence (AI) holds the potential to vastly improve government operations and help meet the needs of citizens in new ways, ranging from traffic management to healthcare delivery to processing tax forms. But most public institutions have not yet adopted this powerful technology. While public sector officials are increasingly aware of the transformational impact of data and AI-powered solutions, the data needed for AI solutions to be developed and deployed is often neither accessible nor discoverable.

Public sector officials may also lack the appropriate knowledge and expertise to make strategic buying decisions for AI-powered tools. Uncertainty about ethical considerations adds further layers of complexity. As a result, officials tend to delay buying decisions, or reduce perceived risk by concentrating their purchasing on a few known suppliers. 

The opportunity 

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is guiding governments to rethink their public procurement processes and working to implement the AI Procurement in a Box across jurisdictions.

The Procurement in a Box aims to empower government officials to more confidently make responsible AI purchasing decisions. The tools included improve the experience for AI solution providers by supporting the creation of transparent and innovative public procurement processes that meet their needs. Embedding the principles advocated for in the guidelines into administrative processes will also expand opportunities for new entrants and create a more competitive environment for the ethical development of AI.

As industry debates its own standards on these technologies, the government’s influence can help set a baseline for the harmonization of standards-setting. Leveraging the significant purchasing power of government in the market, the private-sector adoption of the guidelines can permeate the industry beyond the adoption by public sector organizations. 

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