UK pilots AI procurement guidelines

4 October 2019

The UK is to be the first country to pilot new guidelines for governments covering artificial intelligence (AI) developed by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The UK government has released its Guide to using AI in the Public Sector to help buyers in the public sector evaluate suppliers in a fast-moving and immature market.

The government’s guidelines urge public bodies to explore procurement processes that focus on the challenge at hand rather than a specific solution.

It recommends the use of innovative procurement processes to acquire AI systems.

AI procurement should fall within a strategy for AI adoption and references to legislation and codes of practice should be included in the invitation to tender.

Organisations should ensure they have data governance mechanisms in place from the start of the procurement process.

And they should develop a strategy to address technical and ethical limitations of data.

Procurement should be conducted with diverse multidisciplinary teams to ensure the right skillsets are present in any contract, said the guidance.

The guidelines also urge public sector bodies to apply the government’s Data Ethics Framework Principles and maximise transparency in AI decision-making.

The WEF said its guidelines had been designed to help officials keep up with the rapidly-developing technology and mitigate the risks.

“How government buys services for taxpayers has an impact far wider than the public sector – by taking a dynamic approach we can boost innovation, create competitive markets and support public trust in artificial intelligence,” said minister for digital and broadband Matt Warman.

“These new guidelines place the UK at the forefront of procuring AI and will help the public sector better serve the public, make it easier for firms bidding for new contracts and set a world standard in how governments work with artificial intelligence.”

Separately, more than eight in 10 (86%) executives at manufacturing firms believe smart factories will be the main driver of competitiveness in the next five years.

Deloitte and the Manufacturer’s Alliance for Productivity and Innovation surveyed more than 600 executives at US manufacturing companies to evaluate the impact of smart factories on business.

The report said firms which had invested in smart factory initiatives reported gains of up to 12% in areas such as manufacturing output, factory utilisation and labour productivity.

But only 51% of respondents had made investments in technologies such as automation, internet of things and data analytics.

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