2019 has been a breakthrough year for data and AI in government. Around the world, public institutions are experimenting with these new technologies — but with new tools also comes new questions. For example, how will we protect privacy and data rights?
Throughout 2019 I have published a monthly newsletter about Data and AI in government. Here are the five top trends that stand out, when we look back at the year 2019:
- An increase of data and AI in government
Governments increasingly use data and AI in their activities. Examples are most often found in executive organisations within government (tax offices, financial bodies), enforcement (police) and inspectorates.
Some of the best introductions to the field that I have come across during 2019 include the gov.uk Data in government blog, which is a cross-government blog about working with data, performance analysis and data science techniques. Another is the OECD toolkit the creation of a data-driven culture in the public sector and the book: The Path to Becoming a Data-Driven Public Sector. Are you wondering why it’s still hard to use data and AI in government? The World Economic Forum identified 5 challenges for government adoption of AI.
2. The explosion of National AI strategies
In 2018 Tim Dutton, founder and editor-in-chief of Politics + AI, published an overview of National AI strategies on Medium. In 2019 some notable new strategies can be added to his list: Canada’s Responsible use of AI in government, Finland’s AI ambitions, the USA’s Artificial Intelligence for the American People and the Dutch published their Strategic Action Plan for Artificial Intelligence. Even more impressive is the list with AI policy initiatives from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: 267 initiatives and counting. Are you working on an AI Strategy? The World Economic Forum published a framework for Developing a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The use of Data and AI is a governmental and political hot topic worldwide, which apparently calls for policy and regulation: the amount of policy initiatives doubled from 2017 to 2018.
3. Ethical and privacy concerns
With the rising use of data and AI in government, concerns continue to be raised about ethics and privacy.
In 2019 the EU published its Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI. Another helpful resource is Data & Society’s Workplace Monitoring & Surveillance report, which came out in February this year. It is an informative guide when using Data in the workplace in government. In the fields of health care and local government, In particular, concerns are raised about the use of data and AI.
If you work in this field, or are just interested to learn more, I would suggest you visit The Decode Project. Itis an informative website that provides tools and examples that put individuals in control of whether they keep their personal data private or share it for the public good. In the same vein, the book The Smart Enough City (open access by MIT press) is another stand out example of 2019. In it, the author Ben Green proposes that cities strive to be “smart enough”, i.e. to embrace technology as a powerful tool when used in conjunction with other forms of social change—but not to value technology as an end in and of itself.
4. Data and AI capacity building
Dissemination of knowledge and awareness about the use of data and AI in and outside of government has been a clear trend in 2019. More and more people outside the bubble of AI are beginning to understand how to use it. Apolitical published “Data science and programming for policymakers: a practical introduction, a gentle and concise primer into the field. However, the Dutch took accessibility and audience widening to the next level with their publication Donald Duck dives into the Digital World, a national AI course for every citizen, a data track was added to the government’s IT traineeship and their Academy for Digitalisation and Informatisation of Government added five courses about data governance.
5. The Rise of the Chief Data Officer
Some governments appoint a Chief Data Officer, other organisations place these tasks within the remit of the CIO, CTO or privacy officers. Since job titles and job descriptions differ so much within the C words, there’s just as much to be said for a specific CDO as there is to incorporate it within the CISO’s, CIO’s and CTO’ tasks. and of CPO’s and CTO’s An article in the National Law Review describes the growing importance of these new public servants, and on Medium an article from Bloomberg Cities features interviews with three US Chief Data Officers. New York City even created a Chief Algorithms Officer Position.