How Are Governments Using Generative AI?
Generative AI has found a multitude of use cases across industries. As of now, approximately 70% of companies are either experimenting with or actively implementing Generative AI into their operations. From content generation to data analysis and customer service automation, this technology is being harnessed to streamline processes and enhance productivity. Of course, the public sector is no different.
In the realm of content creation, Generative AI has the potential to revolutionize the way we produce text. Latanya Sweeney, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, predicts that in the future, a substantial portion of internet content—up to 90%—will be generated by AI-powered bots.
As for government use, Generative AI can also help create a more efficient, productive, and rewarding work environment for public sector employees. Angie Heise, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector, lists a few key ways in which Generative AI can be used in the public sector:
- Citizen Services: Generative AI can act as an “Information Assistant” and answer common questions, recommend services based on inputs, and handle simple transactions. This technology enables chatbots to respond to a wide range of inquiries, improving accessibility for citizens and increasing government efficiency.
- Internal Efficiency: AI can help public sector workers by providing intuitive search and chat interactions with intranets and public sector materials. This streamlines onboarding for new employees, promotes efficiency across different departments, and reduces administrative tasks, allowing staff to focus on their mission priorities.
- Deep Data: Large Language Models can analyze vast amounts of data and discover connections between topics and domains that may have been overlooked. They can generate insightful summaries of media coverage and public feedback quickly, challenging conventional wisdom and providing a more comprehensive perspective.
- Creative Aid: Generative AI can assist in various writing tasks, such as drafting abstracts, speeches, memos, and citizen guides. While human oversight is crucial for accuracy and the human touch, AI can accelerate the writing process and inspire creativity, reducing time-to-completion for common writing tasks.
Generative AI is able to accelerate product development by offering both public and private sector entities a competitive edge. It enhances the customer and civilian experience through personalized interactions and recommendations.
However, the adoption of Generative AI is not without its concerns. As we already covered in the first part of this series, the technology can produce inaccurate or biased outputs, necessitating human validation. Malicious actors are using it to create “deep fakes” and scams. Additionally, These models’ unpredictability makes oversight and accountability challenging
As Heise puts it: “Now is the time for public sector organizations to begin leveraging and adopting generative AI capabilities, and they can and should do so from a position of engagement and experimentation.”
As much as the use cases seem promising, we need to look at the bigger picture before implementing any AI tool. Microsoft’s Angie Heise takes a step back to analyze the benefits and the potential setbacks of using Generative AI in the public sector. Some of the benefits include:
- Force Multiplier for Overworked Staff: Simply put, Generative AI saves time. This technology will be able to help social workers maintain more frequent contact with their caseloads, facilitate enhanced support for academic tutoring, and combat isolation by keeping aging populations active. Generative AI interfaces will be able to free up employees to focus on complex cases.
- Increased Capacity at Low Cost: Public sector budgets are often constrained, limiting the scope and speed of services. AI enables governments to expand their capacity without significant additional expenses. These AI assistants complement, rather than replace, public servants, offering a cost-effective means to enhance service quality and responsiveness.
- Streamlined Navigation of Government Services: The complexity of government services can be daunting for citizens who infrequently interact with them. Generative AI can guide individuals and businesses through the intricacies of government laws and regulations.
- Enhanced Accessibility: AI’s universal translation capabilities break down language barriers, making information accessible to people regardless of their language preferences. Natural language interfaces, both written and spoken, provide intuitive access to government information and services. This ensures that technology is inclusive and accessible to all members of society.
- Public-Private Collaboration: Generative AI drives collaboration between the public and private sectors. Public organizations traditionally maintained separate infrastructures, but AI benefits from diversity and shared resources. Collaboration becomes imperative to avoid duplication of efforts and wasteful resource allocation.
However, Generative AI’s growth does not come without controversy. Privacy concerns have been a major concern, and in June 2023, a class-action lawsuit against Open AI for allegedly stealing “massive amounts of personal data” to train ChatGPT. As such, major companies have either restricted or outright banned employee access to the Generative AI tool. Telecommunications giant Verizon has blocked ChatGPT from their systems in an effort to avoid “losing control of customer information.” After the discovery of an accidental data leak of source code uploaded to ChatGPR, Samsung was also among the companies that outright banned the use of the tool.
The same privacy and security concerns are also significant in the public sector. Handling sensitive citizen data and interactions necessitates stringent safeguards to prevent breaches and misuse of information. Some other challenges include:
- Ethical Dilemmas: As AI systems become more capable, ethical dilemmas emerge. Decisions made by AI, even when assisting public servants, can have profound implications. Ensuring AI systems make unbiased and ethical choices is a constant challenge.
- Dependency on Technology: The increasing reliance on generative AI could lead to a dependency on technology. If not properly managed, this dependence may erode human skills and judgment, making it challenging to revert to traditional methods when necessary.
- Equity and Accessibility Issues: While generative AI has the potential to enhance accessibility, it also poses equity concerns. Not everyone has equal access to technology, potentially leaving vulnerable populations at a disadvantage.
As we embrace the AI revolution, it is imperative that we prioritize responsible development and deployment to harness its benefits while mitigating potential risks.
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“AI in Government” series, in partnership with Microsoft Canada.
Part II: AI in Government: The fine balance between applying and regulating AI
Read Angela Heise’s full blog on Generative AI and Public Sector.
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Read our blog post on Addressing Privacy and the GDPR in ChatGPT
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