As part of the recent White House executive order on artificial intelligence (AI), Federal agencies will see a push to use AI to improve citizen experience, and an increased effort to catalog investments in AI, said Dr. Lynne Parker, assistant director for artificial intelligence at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Speaking at an event organized by the National Academy of Public Administration, Parker said today that agencies will be expected to adopt AI in their own operations, especially in front-facing operations.

“We want to be able to have the Federal government use AI to provide better services to citizens. GSA [the General Service Administration], for example, has an office that is bringing people together across the Federal government to learn best practices, and engage in pilot projects about how you can use AI in ways that are common across agencies,” she said. “Certainly, this needs to be expanded, and there’s a lot of work to do in this area.”

However, Parker added that agencies need to improve underlying infrastructure and data to fully take advantage of AI.

“Trying to modernize the IT of the Federal government is a massive job, and part of that is using AI,” she said.

One of the main concerns about AI is its potential impact on the workforce. While guidance on how to implement automation is on the way from the Federal CIO’s office that will take workforce into account, Parker noted that individual agencies are already engaging in reskilling activities.

“There are some kinds of retraining and curriculum development activities within different pieces of the Federal government. Agencies are stepping up on their own to create opportunities for people to, maybe enroll in a short term learning course so they can gain skills in an IT area, cybersecurity, or an AI area,” she said. “Agencies are taking an active role in trying to help people learn these opportunities … because each agency knows the kind of skills and work they do, they’re best suited to create these training programs.”

Looking at the nation as a whole, agencies will be expected to support AI efforts by making more resources available to support AI research.

“The executive order includes some areas of emphasis in helping the Federal government share data that can accelerate AI R&D across the Federal government, and also making more available computational resources, such as high-performance computing,” Parker noted.

Agencies also will need to look at their own R&D and investments. AI investments will be more closely tracked at agencies, and updated Federal-wide guidance is coming this spring in the form of an updated National AI R&D Strategic Plan.

“We need a way to guide these investments, given the fact industry is investing significantly in these areas. So we have a National AI R&D Strategic Plan … but recognizing that this is a fast-moving field, in fall of last year we issued a request for information on input from the public on how that plan is aging,” she said.

Regulation will be an important aspect of how Federal agencies interact with AI as well. Parker noted that regulatory authority will be left to agencies to adjust to their sectors, but with high-level guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on creating a balanced regulatory environment, and agency-level implementation plans. Parker said that a draft version of OMB’s guidance likely would come out in early summer.

“We think at the administration-level that in some sense, it’s unethical to not allow people to have access to all the great advantages of AI. But that approach has to be balanced with those cases where it will hurt people, so we want to have a risk-based approach,” she noted.

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MeriTalk Staff