Report warns government CIOs about getting caught up in AI hype

As government CIOs continue to respond to the risks and opportunities of generative AI in 2024, it’s important they don’t get caught up in the hype, according to tech consultancy Gartner.

Dean Lacheca

Fewer than one in four governments across the world will have AI-enabled citizen services by 2027 because of fear of failure and lack of community trust, Gartner predicts in its latest survey.

Gartner’s annual global survey of over 2,400 CIOs and technology executives found less than 25 per cent of governments will have generative-AI-enabled citizen-facing services by 2027.

“AI has been identified as “game-changing” technology by many governments, but risk and uncertainty are slowing its adoption at scale,” the report says.

Legacy systems are also persisting, Gartner says, soaking up maintenance budgets and undermining public sector resilience and responsiveness.

VP Analyst Dean Lacheca says Australian, federal and local governments have followed global patterns of “cautious enthusiasm”  for generative AI.

“While governments have been benefiting from the use of more mature AI technologies for years, risk and uncertainty are slowing GenAI’s adoption at scale, especially the lack of traditional controls to mitigate drift and hallucinations,” Mr Lacheca said.

“In addition, a lack of empathy in service delivery and a failure to meet community expectations will undermine public acceptance of GenAI’s use in citizen-facing services.”

Mr Lacheca says it’s important that early missteps don’t set back public confidence in the use of AI in government service delivery.

He says governments should focus first on building skills and knowledge around internal operations while establishing transparent governance and assurance frameworks.

“These frameworks need to specifically address risks associated with citizen-facing service delivery use cases, such as inaccurate or misleading results, data privacy and secure conversations,” Mr Lacheca says.

“This can be done by ensuring governance processes specifically address each risk both before and after initial implementation.”

Government organisations should also be mindful of implementing empathy-focused and human-centred design when using citizen or workforce-facing AI solutions.

Pressure on CIOs

Gartner says the real and perceived opportunities of AI continue to attract wide interest from the public sector, whether from elected officials, senior executives or frontline workers, and this is putting pressure on CIOs to procure and develop AI capabilities.

However, CIOs need to keep their eye on the forest as well as the trees.

“Government CIOs must not get caught up in the hype around AI. They must set an appropriate pace around the exploration and adoption of AI technologies,” the report says.

“At the same time, they must maintain their focus on traditional technology initiatives such as hyperautomation and application modernisation.

“Governments must move at a pace that is aligned to governments’ risk appetite. This will help to ensure that early missteps in the use of AI do not undermine communities’ acceptance of their use in government service delivery.”

By 2026, more than 60 per cent of government organisations will prioritise investment in business process automation, up from 35 per cent in 2022, Gartner predicts.

By 2026, more than 60 per cent will systematically use human centred design to meet community demand for empathetic digital services.

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