Promoting Trustworthy AI in Government

President Joe Biden’s decision to elevate the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to a Cabinet-level position underscores the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) in America’s future. Unlocking AI’s potential will be done with a focus on racial and gender equity. Technologies like AI “reveal and reflect even more about the complex and sometimes dangerous social architecture that lies beneath the scientific progress that we pursue.”

There’s no doubt that ethics must be foundational to the design, development, and acquisition of AI capabilities, and that government agencies should embed trustworthy AI as part of a holistic strategy to transform the way government operates.

Agency leaders can start by identifying areas where AI can transform internal operations and improve their public-facing mission services with minimal risk of bias. In championing the ethical use of AI, leadership must not only ask, can we do this, but should we do this and how can we do this in a way that promotes equity.

Building Trust

Many government agencies have begun adopting AI with an emphasis on building trust. Lack of trust in AI and the potential for racial bias can be serious barriers to AI initiatives. Government agencies can address these challenges with a focus on six key disciplines:

  • AI applications and data should be tested for fairness and impartiality, especially against systemic racial and gender biases.
  • Decisions made by AI algorithms should be transparent, explainable, and open to public inspection.
  • Organizational structures and policies should be in place to hold leaders responsible and accountable for decisions made using AI.
  • The systems themselves should be robust and reliable enough to produce consistent decisions.
  • AI systems should be safe and secure from cyber risks that may lead to loss of trust or physical harm.
  • The use of AI should be respectful of privacy and limited to its intended and stated use.

How Government Agencies Can Respond

  • Identify ways AI can transform operations and improve public services by first taking an inventory of AI readiness and then exploring opportunities to improve public-facing services and streamlining business processes in a way that puts ethics at the very core
  • Invest in developing and attracting AI talent through training that includes how to navigate the inherent potential for bias in AI technology while building employees’ trust in AI.
  • Develop a governance model with an emphasis on safe, reliable, and ethical AI by appointing leaders with responsibility for ensuring that AI practices treat citizens fairly and provide equal access to government services.
  • AI is a powerful force, and agency leaders can cultivate trust in it by proactively addressing racial and gender inequities that may arise from deploying AI technology.

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