Public procurement of Artificial Intelligence intensifies

The UK government just announced a huge (and initial) investment of £100mn to boost the development of AI following global trends in government procurement

The UK government has just announced a massive investment of £100mn to boost the development of safe and reliable foundation models in the country.

The Prime Minister and the Technology Secretary have revealed that a Taskforce will be created to develop and ensure the safe and reliable use of these pivotal artificial intelligence (AI) systems across the economy, with the aim of making the UK globally competitive in this strategic technology.

Large Language Models (LLM)

Foundation models, also known as large language models, are AI systems that have been trained on massive volumes of data such as text, images, video, or audio to gain broad and sophisticated capabilities across many tasks.

They have become a crucial part of the AI ecosystem and are increasingly being used across a variety of fields, including healthcare, education, finance, and security.

With AI expected to contribute billions of pounds to the UK GDP, the Taskforce will help deliver the Prime Minister's priorities to grow the country's economy, while generating better outcomes for people through better public services.

Tripling national productivity growth rates

Research suggests that the broad adoption of such systems could triple national productivity growth rates, making them a key driver of economic growth.

The Taskforce, which has been modelled on the success of the COVID-19 Vaccines Taskforce, will bring together government and industry experts to work towards developing the safety and reliability of foundation models.

This will include both scientific and commercial development, to support businesses and public trust in these systems and drive their adoption.

The investment will focus on building the UK's 'sovereign' national capabilities to enable public services to benefit from the transformational impact of this type of AI.

The Taskforce will focus on opportunities to establish the UK as a world leader in foundation models and their applications across the economy, acting as a global standard-bearer for AI safety.

The first pilots targeting public services are expected to launch in the next six months, and the Taskforce will report directly to the Prime Minister and the Technology Secretary.

The funding announcement follows a recent Cabinet meeting where Ministers agreed on the transformative potential of AI, the vital importance of retaining public confidence in its use, and the need for regulation that keeps people safe without preventing innovation.

Sunak and Donelan

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said that "harnessing the potential of AI provides enormous opportunities to grow our economy, create better-paid jobs, and build a better future through advances in healthcare and security."

He added that by investing in emerging technologies through the new expert Taskforce, the government can continue to lead the way in developing safe and trustworthy AI as part of shaping a more innovative UK economy.

Science, Innovation, and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, noted that "developed responsibly, cutting-edge AI can have a transformative impact in nearly every industry.

“It can revolutionise the way we develop new medical treatments, tackle climate change, and improve our public services, all while growing and future-proofing our economy."

To ensure such leadership, the Taskforce will prioritise the safety and reliability of foundation models. This will ensure that the public and businesses have the trust they need to confidently adopt this technology and fully realise its benefits.

UK's ambition to become a world leader in AI

This investment is a critical step in the UK's ambition to become a world leader in AI, and it follows earlier investments in AI technology.

These include the £900mn investment in a new 'exascale' supercomputer and a dedicated AI Research Resource, which are designed to equip the UK with the processing power it needs to support the next generation of AI innovation.

The Taskforce will play a crucial role in ensuring that the major, multi-year funding announced at the Budget for compute is strategically invested to prioritise and strengthen the UK's capability in foundation models.

Doug Gurr of the Alan Turing Institute

Doug Gurr, Chair of the Alan Turing Institute, said that "we congratulate the government on this exciting investment which will keep the UK at the cutting edge of this transformative technology and look forward to continuing to work closely with policymakers, industry partners, and academics to ensure that the benefits of AI are harnessed for the good of society."

In addition to the government's investment, private companies and academic institutions are also pouring significant resources into AI research and development.

This has led to a proliferation of new startups and a surge of interest in the field from students and researchers.

As AI continues to advance and transform our world, it's crucial that we also consider the ethical implications of this technology.

The Turing Institute, for example, is dedicated to advancing research in AI while also considering the social and ethical implications of its development and use.

AI’s increasing integration into our lives means that it's also important to ensure that it's being used in ways that benefit society as a whole. This includes addressing issues like bias and discrimination in AI algorithms, ensuring that privacy and security concerns are addressed, and considering the potential impact of AI on the workforce.

Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of AI are enormous, from improving healthcare outcomes to advancing scientific research to revolutionising the way we live and work.

With continued investment in AI research and development, and a commitment to responsible use and development, the UK and other nations can harness the power of this transformative technology to create a better future for all.

Gartner: Government organisations increasing investment in AI

This story of the public procurement of AI technologies is a trend on the global stage, and it comes with its fair share of hope and reservation. The increasing adoption of AI technologies by government organisations across the world is transforming the way they operate and serve their citizens.

As the demand for public services continues to grow, governments are turning to AI to help them achieve their public purpose or mission more efficiently and effectively.

According to the 2021 Gartner CIO survey, 36% of government respondents indicated that they planned to increase investment in AI/machine learning in 2021, and of course, since the release of ChatGPT among thousands of other AI systems onto the market, the numbers are rapidly increasing.

This trend is reflected in the widespread adoption of chatbots or conversational agents, which are currently leading the way in government AI technology adoption.

The Gartner Digital Transformation Divergence Across Government Sectors survey found that 26% of respondents have already deployed chatbots, while a further 59% expect to have deployed them within the next three years.

However, despite the growing popularity of AI technologies, a separate Gartner survey found that government employees are still concerned about their impact.

AI technologies are still viewed with a level of uncertainty, especially among employees who have not worked with any AI-backed solutions.

More than half (53%) of government employees who have worked with AI technologies believe they provide insights to do their job better, compared to 34% of employees who have not used AI.

To address these concerns and increase acceptance of AI technologies among government employees, Dean Lacheca, senior research director at Gartner, emphasised the importance of linking the technology to practical outcomes that benefit government employees and support mission objectives.

While chatbots and conversational agents are currently the most widely adopted, the most significant AI technology for governments in terms of planned adoption is machine-learning-supported data mining. Sixteen percent have deployed it at the time, and a further 69% planned to do so within the next three years. We are already there.

As AI technologies continue to advance and become more sophisticated, the potential for governments to streamline their operations and deliver more effective services to their citizens will only increase. 

With careful planning, implementation, and education, the use of AI in government can have a significant positive impact on the way public services are delivered and the lives of citizens.

Gartner - back then - revealed that a significant proportion of government employees were uncertain about the potential impact of AI.

Dean Lacheca of Gartner: Advice to the public sector on AI

Dean Lacheca, a senior research director at Gartner, suggested that senior executives in the public sector should take steps to address employees' apprehension about AI by demonstrating how the technology can help them to get their work done.

He also emphasised the importance of building confidence in the technology through exposure, use cases and case studies.

The saga continues.


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