Major report urges government to create dedicated AI programme for public sector

Written by Sam Trendall on 16 October 2017 in News

A government-commissioned study makes 18 recommendations, including asking GDS to help create a scheme to boost public sector use of artificial intelligence

The AI sector could be worth more than £600bn to the UK economy over the next two decades, a new government-backed report has found

A major government-commissioned report has urged the creation of a programme to support the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology across the UK public sector.

Commissioned earlier this year by business secretary Greg Clark and culture secretary Karen Bradley, the newly published Growing the Artificial Intelligence Industry in the UK report identifies 18 measures that it claims could make the UK a world leader in the field. One of these recommendations is that the government establishes a dedicated programme to help the wider public sector deploy AI.

The independent report, which was written by Dame Wendy Hall, professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, and Jérôme Pesenti, chief executive of AI firm BenevolentTech, urges the government to work closely with the Government Digital Service, the Data Science Partnership, and other departmental experts to “develop a programme of actions to prepare the public sector and spread best practice for applying AI to improve operations and services for citizens”.

The work of a public-sector AI programme might include backing “demonstrator projects” that showcase best practice, and ensuring the public-sector workforce is prepared for how AI might change their working lives. Supporting “transformational departmental policy programmes” that could benefit from AI and machine-learning algorithms should also be on the agenda, as should ensuring government uses the Digital Marketplace platform to get the most out of AI procurement, the report says.

Related content

“The programme should offer support to the broad UK public sector, including devolved administrations and the local public sector,” it adds. “There could be a role for a dedicated public-sector AI innovation fund, into which departments could bid to fund for proof-of-concept AI demonstrator projects – available to UK SMEs only – to help develop the national pipeline of expertise. An additional mechanism like this could enable policymakers and public-service leaders to test applications in a supported system without having to compete for internal budgets.”

The report’s 18 recommendations are split into four categories, the first of which is dedicated to improving access to data. In this area, the report recommends:

  • The development of data trusts, to make data-sharing easier and more trustworthy
  • To make a greater amount of research data readable to machines
  • To ensure text and data mining become standard tools for researchers

To improve the supply of AI skills, the report recommends:

  • The creation of a Masters degree in AI, funded by the private sector
  • Undertaking research to build AI training courses that benefit employers
  • Awarding an extra 200 places a year – to a more diverse range of students – in AI PhD courses at top universities
  • The development of online courses that could contribute credit to MSc qualifications in AI
  • Fostering more diversity among the AI workforce
  • The creation of an international AI Fellowship Programme in the UK

To get the most out of AI research in the UK, the report recommends:

  • Making the Alan Turing Institute in London a national institution dedicated to AI and data science
  • The promotion, via universities, of standardisation in how intellectual property is transferred
  • A negotiated and coordinated strategy for what computing capacity is dedicated to AI research

To encourage the uptake of AI, the report recommends:

  • The establishment of an AI Council to promote the sector
  • More guidance on how AI-enabled processes and decisions are explained
  • More guidance on how AI could help commercial enterprises improve their business operations
  • Greater government support for exports and inward investment
  • The establishment of a programme to support the use of AI by public-sector entities
  • Public bodies to offer challenges concerning the use of data, with funding offered to successful ideas

The report claims that the market for AI technology could swell the country’s economy by £630bn by 2035. The government has pledged to do its part to help the UK become a world-leading force in the sector.

Culture secretary Bradley said: “I want the UK to lead the way in artificial intelligence. It has the potential to improve our everyday lives – from healthcare, to robots that perform dangerous tasks. We already have some of the best minds in the world working on artificial intelligence, and the challenge now is to build a strong partnership with industry and academia to cement our position as the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business."

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Chatbots, free WiFi, and paperless councillors – Waltham Forest’s digital transformation
13 September 2018

Executive and political leadership at the east London council talk to PublicTechnology about their work to lead transformation in a way that benefits the entire borough 

‘GDS’s future mission needs clarifying’
18 October 2018

A House of Commons inquiry into the work of GDS to data and the state of digital government has begun publishing its findings. PublicTechnology looks at what a range of experts have had...

Whitehall suffers from ‘a culture of denial when a project is going badly’, says PAC chair Hillier
25 September 2018

The head of the Public Accounts Committee has lamented a lack of transparency and information sharing across the civil service

Related Sponsored Articles

GDPR already isn’t working
15 October 2018

The policies may be in place, but is it happening in practice? BT's Bas de Graaf looks at the reality of GDPR today

Simplicity in a complex world
8 October 2018

Cisco's Dominic Elliott shows how global organisations can embrace the benefits of SD-WAN without adding complexity

Make more of your digital transformation with Intelligent Connectivity
25 September 2018

When it comes to digital transformation, you want your organisation to lead from the front

Government begins to "rightsize"​ its estate
17 September 2018

BT's Simon Godfrey on how government is fundamentally rethinking its strategy for both people and places