Guidelines stress need to embed good AI procurement practices

Governments must prepare for the future now by investing in building responsible practices for how they procure AI, according to new guidelines from the World Economic Forum.

The guidelines, developed by the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, are designed to help policy officials, data practitioners and AI solutions providers overcome reluctance to procure the emerging technology, while minimising the risks the it can pose.

The World Economic Forum White Paper says governments are increasingly seeking to capture the opportunities of AI to improve public sector productivity and service provision.

AI, which includes technologies that employ learning, adaptation, sensory interaction, reasoning, planning, autonomy and creativity, has the potential to vastly improve government operations in everything from traffic management to healthcare and tax.

As reported by Government News, the NSW government recently announced the rollout of an AI system capable of identifying motorists who illegally use their phones while behind the wheel.

Governments lack experience in AI procurement

But governments  often lack experience in acquiring AI solutions, the paper says.

There are also concerns about privacy, accountability and transparency – not to mention complexity.

The guidelines also stress the need for Governments to understand negative outcomes of the technology, as well as benefits.

“Without clear guidance on how to ensure accountability, transparency and explainability, governments may fail in their responsibility to meet public expectations of both expert and democratic oversight of algorithmic decision-making,” the guidelines say.

They say new uses of AI that are of interest to governments will continue to emerge and will bring with them both benefits and risks.

“It is important that governments prepare for this future now by investing in building responsible practices for how they procure AI,” the paper says.

How to ensure responsible AI procurement

  • Focus on specific solutions
  • Define benefits and risks
  • Align AI procurement with existing strategies
  • Include relevant legislation in bidding documents
  • Assess the feasibility of accessing relevant data
  • Be mindful of ethical limitations of data use
  • Implement a process for continued engagement with the provider

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