First AI procurement policy to be developed

21 September 2018

The world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) public procurement policy is to be developed by the UK and the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will help the organisation write guidelines for how governments should responsibly design and use AI for public benefit.

The partnership will involve sending a DCMS secondee to the forum’s research base in San Francisco to create these new guidelines, the WEF said.

The UK is the first country to partner with the WEF’s research hub, the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, on the project.

AI could help government with issues such as traffic management, healthcare delivery and processing tax forms, the forum said.

But public institutions are cautious about harnessing it “because of concerns over bias, privacy, accountability, transparency and overall complexity,” it added.

“Governments’ significant buying power can drive private sector adoption of these standards even for products that are sold beyond government,” said Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of AI at the WEF.

“The future of AI needs government and businesses to work together. I’m thrilled to have the United Kingdom partner with the centre on this project.

Margot James, digital minister at the DCMS, said: “The UK has a proud history of stepping up and shaping the international rules and partnerships for new technologies.

“Artificial intelligence has huge potential benefits and it is right that the public sector is helping to lead the way. Our collaboration with the World Economic Forum on AI will keep the UK at the forefront of this revolutionary technology.”

This year, the House of Lords Select Committee on AI said the public sector should use targeted procurement to boost the development and deployment of AI in the UK.

In a report, Lords said the UK was “in a strong position to be among the world leaders in the development of artificial intelligence” and the technology, if “handled carefully”, could solve complex problems and improve productivity.

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