Artificial intelligence to empower public services, says minister

Michelle Donelan highlights uses of AI in policing and healthcare along with potential to cut time spent on administration

Artificial intelligence can help public sector professionals deliver better services while spending less time on administration, the science minister has written in the government’s white paper on the technology.

Michelle Donelan, the secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, wrote that professionals spend too much time on monotonous tasks such as inputting data: “AI in the workplace has the potential to free us up from these tasks, allowing us to spend more time doing the things we trained for – teachers with more time to teach, clinicians with more time to spend with patients, police officers with more time on the beat rather than behind a desk.”

The white paper highlighted AI’s existing use in policing, such as through the Child Abuse Images Database which holds millions of indecent images of children, allowing officers to analyse seized devices and identify images already known to law enforcement, categorise the severity of images and help identify the children involved.

It discussed a number of potential benefits of using AI in healthcare, including work with NHS hospitals to fully automate the screening of images for breast cancer and accelerating the development of new medicines. NHS England’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has established an AI and Digital Regulations Service to help developers understand and navigate regulations.

While acknowledging risks, the white paper presents AI as a source of beneficial innovation which could boost economic growth. Rather than establishing an AI regulator, the government will charge existing regulatory organisations with regulating the technology in their sectors.

The Department for Education, in a statement on the use of generative AI including ChatGPT and Google Bard in education, said the technology may be able to help teachers spend less time on non-teaching activities.

However, it warned that generative AI can produce unreliable information which needs checking for appropriateness and accuracy and may not be comparable with resources designed by people

“Having access to generative AI is not a substitute for having knowledge in long-term memory, not least because we cannot make the most of generative AI without knowledge to draw on.”

The department said that personal and sensitive data must not be entered into generative IT systems, as they store and learn from such input. It added that schools, colleges, universities and awarding organisations need to take steps to prevent malpractice using generative AI, with guidelines on this published by the Joint Council for Qualifications.

PublicTechnology staff

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