Prior to COVID-19, government investment in AI had surpassed billions of dollars in research and development. With a premium now placed on speed to develop vaccines and diagnostics for the coronavirus, there is a renewed emphasis on the role of AI and how governments can ensure it is used in a trusted manner.
The World Economic Forum’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning team built and piloted with partners tools for governments to procure artificial intelligence solutions built with ethics in mind. The Procurement in a Box toolkit includes concrete advice for purchasing, risk assessments, proposal drafting and evaluation.
Over the past year, the Forum worked with the United Kingdom’s Office for AI in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Deloitte, Salesforce and Splunk, as well as 15 other countries and more than 150 members of government, academia, civil society and the private sector. The development process incorporated workshops and interviews with government procurement officials and private sector procurement professionals.
The UK used the guidelines in procurement processes with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Food Standards Agency. In-depth user testing with workshops in departments such as the Department for Transport or the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory looked at the applicability of guidelines for commercial teams and how to best implement them. User testing helped the government refine the guidance and develop step by step guidance documents now in use across the departments. It was also picked up by organisations such as NHSX as guidance for AI purchases.
“The current pandemic has shown us more needs to be done to speed up the adoption of trusted AI around the world,” said Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum. “We moved from guidelines to practical tools, tested and iterated them – but this is still just a start. Now we will be working to scale them to countries around the world.”
“The UK is a global leader in AI and I am pleased we are working with the World Economic Forum and international partners to develop guidelines to ensure its safe and ethical deployment,” said Caroline Dinenage, Digital Minister, United Kingdom. “By taking a dynamic approach we can boost innovation, create competitive markets and support public trust in artificial intelligence. I urge public sector organisations around the world to adopt these guidelines and consider carefully how they procure and deploy these technologies.”
“As a trusted AI advisor to governments around the world, we were thrilled to collaborate with the World Economic Forum and the government of the UK in the development of procurement guidelines that help the public sector put AI at the service of its constituents in a manner that is both efficient and ethical,” said Shelby Austin, Managing Partner, Growth & Investments and Omnia AI, Deloitte, Canada. “As our societies reorganize and make progress in our fight against COVID-19, the need for multi-stakeholder cooperation has never been more apparent. We believe in these joint efforts, and we believe in the power of data-driven decision-making to help our countries recover and thrive.”
“Splunk has supported the development of these guidelines and worked closely with the World Economic Forum and UK government,” said Lenny Stein, Senior Strategic Advisor, Splunk. “We believe the guidance will help enable governments across the world to transform citizen services and deliver ethically sound and beneficial AI-based solutions. This guidance is even more relevant post COVID-19, given the need to deliver fairer outcomes, more inclusive approaches, and the promise of the data age.”
The guidelines were also tested in the UAE through a collaboration between the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE and the Dubai Water and Electricity Authority, DEWA. As part of the exercise, DEWA with the help of the Forum and the Centre, developed and reviewed a proposal for a chatbot application, which allows DEWA executives to quickly obtain answers to data-related questions. The application, which is a continuation of a customer-facing chatbot deployed by DEWA, highlights the benefits of using AI in developing more efficient and effective chatbots.
“As the UAE’s shift towards a knowledge-based economy gathers pace, the country has become a reliable testbed and leader in the development and execution of guidelines and frameworks that enable the large-scale deployment of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence,” said Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, the host entity of Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE. “In an era that will continue to be dominated by the transformative technologies emerging from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, integrating AI into the public sector for everyday use will significantly elevate the performance of government departments.”
The Procurement in a Box Workbook provides clear guidelines and use case examples, including learnings from the UAE trial with DEWA, to enable a transition from current public sector procurement processes to methodical steps to acquire and embed AI technologies into existing frameworks. The workbook will become a reference point for specialists and support the next phase of tech utilization across the public sector.
The 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.