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2024 Government AI Trends to Watch

2024 Government AI Trends to Watch

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Agencies across the government are establishing enterprise-level teams or offices devoted to developing artificial intelligence (AI) policies and resources while simultaneously utilizing the technology for a variety of projects. The website includes details on more than 700 artificial intelligence use cases among federal agencies, with the Department of Energy and Health and Human Services being the most prolific users of AI in government today. 

The use of AI spans a wide range of government functions, including:

  • Crisis response – The speed of generative AI (Gen AI) makes it valuable in emergency response as it can quickly synthesize information from multiple sources and present a coherent report. It holds the promise to be used for faster, more accurate early warnings, decision support, and community communication of information – like first aid advice, health warnings, road closures, and more. AI can also be used before a crisis to create training and simulations for first responders and communication staff. AI also supports post-event analysis by quickly pulling important data to create reports on response effectiveness.
  • Healthcare – AI can help healthcare providers supply educational content to patients. Human intervention is, of course, critical to double-checking the content coming out of AI systems for accuracy and applicability. Legislation has been proposed to fund more research into how to use generative AI to improve patient care and incentivize its use.
  • Citizen service – The initial use of AI in government was in the area of citizen service in the form of chatbots that delivered answers to common questions. As technology and people’s comfort with AI have progressed, there are other ways it can support citizen service. The state of Utah is using AI to automate its process for purchasing rights-of-way, which is incredibly tedious and involves repetitively describing plots of land.
  • Budgeting – AI can help streamline creating budget requests and provide the needed documentation to back up those requests. For example, a local government could leverage generative AI to analyze historical infrastructure spending, forecast future requirements, and optimize resource distribution for more efficient allocation. 

AI can only have this type of positive impact on efficiency and effectiveness of government services if deployed and managed responsibly. 2024 promises to be a year where we see an emphasis on oversight along with continued innovation in AI use. 

Continuing Innovation with Oversight

The White House issued the Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence in the fall of 2023 to help guide a parallel effort of regulation and innovation. The Executive Order established new standards for AI safety and security to protect Americans’ privacy, advance equity, and support workers, all while ensuring the United States is leading the world in realizing the promise of AI. 

As agencies look to meet the deadlines and goals set forth in the EO, there are three key challenges that need to be addressed:

  • Developing regulations for generative AI and the products it creates
  • Meeting the need for AI talent 
  • Achieving equity in how AI solutions are developed and deployed

Let’s dive into each of these areas to better understand what work has been done to date and what to expect in 2024. 

Governing the Rise of Generative AI

Gen AI is a type of AI that produces content. That could be a story, an image, or an audio file, and is a shift from traditional AI usage, which is focused on completing a task based on predefined rules. 

Like traditional AI, Gen AI holds great promise for automating highly manual tasks in many areas of government. A recent report found that three-fourths of agency leaders said their agencies have already begun establishing teams to assess the impact of Gen AI and are planning to implement initial applications in the coming months.

However, the ethics of utilizing and altering existing content as well as the veracity of newly created content are key concerns slowing Gen AI adoption. The same report found the top concerns about Gen AI were lack of controls to ensure ethical/responsible information generation, a lack of ability to verify/explain generated output, and potential abuse/distortion of government-generated content in the public domain. But even with those concerns, the report found that seventy-one percent of respondents believe that the potential advantages of employing Gen AI in their agency’s operations outweigh the perceived risks.

In 2024, expect more conversations and hearings leading to guidance and regulations on when and how to use Gen AI for agency work and citizen service. 

Regulating Regulations

The AI Bill of Rights was one of the first guiding principles for the ethical use of AI. The framework provides general rules about how AI should be employed and how it should be allowed or restricted from working with humans. People deserve the right to know when AI is involved in making a decision about the services they are being offered (be that a loan or healthcare treatment). Extended to Gen AI, consumers should be informed when they are viewing or using a product developed by AI. 

This idea of taking a familiar set of laws (Bill of Rights) and applying them to AI is becoming the preferred regulatory method. AI experts believe there are many existing regulations, specifically those around cybersecurity and data privacy that can be applied to AI use cases, shortening the time it takes to build a regulatory body around AI use. 

Supporting the People Behind AI

While AI is a computer-driven process, there are important and distinct roles for humans across the AI lifecycle. From building the algorithms that inform AI, to reviewing AI outputs, to deciding use cases, humans and AI truly must operate as colleagues. 

The AI Executive Order specifies that AI needs a “boss” in every agency. This means appointing a Chief AI Officer (CAIO) as either a stand-alone position or as a part of another executive-level role. The primary role of the CAIO is “coordination, innovation, and risk management for their agency’s use of AI.” This role will be deeply interconnected with HR, IT, data, cybersecurity, civil rights, and customer experience leaders in their agency. 

Beyond this important leadership and oversight, agencies also need to beef up their AI-savvy staff across every department. Similar to pushes to close the cybersecurity workforce gap in government, agencies will need to provide attractive incentives to get AI talent to look at government jobs as opposed to frequently higher paying private sector positions. 

Ensuring AI for All

In the fall of 2023, the Department of Commerce announced the designation of 31 Tech Hubs in regions across the country. These hubs are designed to catalyze regional innovation and foster job creation by strengthening a region’s capabilities in technology manufacturing, commercialization, and deployment. The Federal Government strategically invests in these regions to establish essential infrastructure that fosters the development of business and research in diverse fields such as quantum computing, biotechnology, precision medicine, clean energy advancement, semiconductor manufacturing, and beyond. 

This program aims to decentralize tech knowledge and job opportunities, shifting them from concentrated urban areas to regions nationwide. The goal is to broaden access to jobs and diversify the talent pool engaged in developing advanced technology solutions. This round of Tech Hubs to watch in 2024 include programs in Puerto Rico, Montana, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Wisconsin.

Stay connected as we continue to monitor AI use and regulation, helping you better understand how the technology is impacting government service delivery. Join GovEvents and GovWhitePapers for up-to-date resources and events focused on government AI use.


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