UK public sector urged to ‘maximize the opportunities’ of gen AI – CIO

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The UK government could improve productivity through widespread and systematized uptake of generative AI, but only if it takes steps to build its expertise and come up with an adoption strategy, a new study has found.

Generative AI offers the possibility of “large-scale productivity gains” for UK government workers, but the government lacks an overarching strategy for AI adoption, according to the study, “Use of artificial intelligence in government.” It was prepared by the National Audit Office, an independent agency of the UK’s parliament that functions as a public spending watchdog.

Various parts of the government have begun to explore AI use independently, however, leading to scattered uptake and a lack of broad-based vision for the technology’s functionality in government. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology — along with its specialist offices like the Artificial Intelligence Policy Directorate — bears primary responsibility for implementing a general strategy for AI, as most government departments (70%, according to the study) are piloting and planning AI use cases already.

The Cabinet Office, home of the government’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO), must take a leadership role, according to Meg Hillier, a Member of Parliament and chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, which oversees the NAO.

“Government has encouraged the use of AI for several years and there is existing AI activity and exploration across government, so the Cabinet office needs to bring together this insight and learning and share it across departments,” she said in a statement. “[AI] provides huge opportunities to transform public services, but to maximize these the government will need to implement and adopt AI at scale across the public sector.”

AI has already found its way into many government departments, with the most common use of AI identified by the NAO being to support operational decision-making through automated document analysis, digital assistant functionality, and image recognition.

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