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Artificial Intelligence for Government: Advice for Leaders

Jason Adolf, Industry Vice President - Global Public Sector
December 27, 2023

AI is a groundbreaking technology that is ready to modernize the way federal government agencies operate. By automating tasks and optimizing workflows, artificial intelligence (AI) promises to enhance efficiency, minimize errors, and boost productivity without adding resources.

But as with any change—and especially one as transformative as AI—leaders need to take deliberate and cautious steps to ensure a smooth integration of these innovations and to gain the buy-in of government employees.

Guiding principles for implementing AI in government.

  • Invest in talent and training. Develop a skilled workforce capable of understanding, implementing, and managing AI technologies. Invest in training programs for existing government personnel to foster comfort with AI and recruit experts who can bridge the gap between technology and policy. A knowledgeable workforce is essential for the responsible deployment and oversight of AI systems. And it’s no less important to explain how AI will help them to do their jobs better and emphasize that it’s not something that will replace them.

  • Establish clear, ethical guidelines. Set robust ethical standards that prioritize transparency, accountability, and fairness. Create an AI framework that addresses potential biases and safeguards against discrimination.

    [ Forge the AI future with confidence. Get the 2024 AI Outlook. ]

  • Promote collaboration and information sharing. Foster collaboration between federal agencies. Learn best practices from the private sector and encourage the exchange of information to enhance collective learning. Collaborative efforts can lead to more robust AI solutions, shared resources, and a unified approach to addressing challenges.

  • Prioritize cybersecurity. Given the sensitive nature of government data, prioritize cybersecurity when implementing AI systems. Establish stringent security protocols to safeguard against potential threats and vulnerabilities. Regularly update security measures to stay ahead of evolving cyber threats.

Government AI precautions: What not to do.

  • Don’t neglect privacy concerns. Avoid overlooking privacy considerations when implementing AI systems. Ensure compliance with data protection regulations and use a private AI model to protect government, vendor, and citizen information. 

[ Learn how to operationalize AI without compromising data privacy: Implementing Private AI: A Practical Guide. ]

  • Don’t overlook potential biases. Do not underestimate the impact of bias in AI algorithms. Regularly audit and assess AI systems for potential biases and implement corrective measures to promote fairness in decision-making processes.

  • Don’t rush implementation. Resist the urge to rapidly deploy AI technologies without thorough testing and evaluation. Conduct pilot programs to assess the effectiveness, accuracy, and societal impact of AI applications. An agile, phased approach eases the transition and helps you manage change more effectively. Low-code software lets you quickly update applications and iterate often, replacing one part of a workflow at a time and integrating it with your existing system.

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of explainability. Avoid adopting "black box" AI systems that lack transparency. Prioritize the development of explainable AI models that can provide insights into decision-making processes. Transparent systems are crucial for building public trust, facilitating accountability, and responding to audits.

  • Don’t disregard the potential for job displacement. While AI cannot replace human workers—rather, it assists them by performing routine and tedious tasks—government leaders should acknowledge the potential for AI to automate certain tasks and lead to job displacement. Develop policies and initiatives to reskill and upskill the workforce, ensuring a smooth transition as AI technologies reshape job landscapes.

Read more about what AI can do for government organizations and what it can’t, and watch Appian CEO Matt Calkins explain how leading public sector organizations are leveraging emerging technologies to achieve unprecedented efficiencies and returns on investment.