How Agencies Can Effectively Implement Artificial Intelligence

Managing data, workforce, and risk are key to success.

As the public sector adopts new technologies to improve operations and service delivery, artificial intelligence and machine learning offer agencies new potential for improving interaction with citizens and making better decisions. But implementing AI well requires a focus on sound technology management and attention to critical details.

This week, the IBM Center for The Business of Government released a new report to help agencies understand effective practices in adopting AI and cognitive technologies: Delivering Artificial Intelligence in Government: Challenges and Opportunities, by Kevin Desouza, ASU Foundation Professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University.

Desouza reviews recent progress made in applying artificial intelligence to public sector service provision, drawing on lessons learned from commercial experience as well as burgeoning cognitive computing activity by federal, state, local, and international governments. The report draws on this real-world experience to set forth a framework for agencies to plan, develop, and deploy AI systems. The author then puts forward a set of challenges for government leaders and innovators in this space, along with opportunities for agencies to act in addressing these challenges. Finally, the report outlines a maturity model for agencies to use in guiding their journey forward in applying AI to improve mission performance.

Desouza frames these opportunities in three broad areas: technology and data, workforce, and risk management. In each area, agency leaders will find key factors they can apply to increase the likelihood that emerging AI and cognitive applications will be implemented successfully. These factors include:

  • Upgrading IT infrastructure to support AI systems, leveraging cloud computing technologies.
  • Identifying data-intensive applications that can benefit from AI, and establishing data governance to take advantage of the benefits that AI can deliver.
  • Enabling a skilled public sector workforce to use AI, including through agile implementations and redesigned work processes.
  • Developing AI in a manner that augments human decisionmaking and follows ethical imperatives around transparency, security, auditability, and citizen involvement.
  • Working in partnership with government, academia, and industry.

As the author concludes: “To enable successful use of AI in government, leaders must design and implement governance and policy that promotes a skilled workforce that collaborates with academia and the private sector, risk management frameworks, secure systems, and modern technologies.”

This work follows on our recent report with the Partnership for Public Service that identifies case studies of government success in this space, The Future Has Begun: Using Artificial Intelligence to Transform Government.

We hope agencies will find the practical and actionable steps offered in this report to be useful in capitalizing on the potential for AI to improve government.