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Press release

Ada Lovelace Institute statement on Spring Budget 2024

Imogen Parker, Associate Director (Society, justice & public services) comments on proposed investment in artificial intelligence in the public sector

6 March 2024

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The Chancellor has announced the 2024 Spring Budget. Commenting on the proposed investment in artificial intelligence in the public sector, Imogen Parker, Associate Director (Society, justice & public services) at the Ada Lovelace Institute, said:

“We welcome the Government’s plans to invest to ensure the public sector benefits from AI. However, to realise the full potential of this investment, there must be more transparency around the proposed pilots, urgent progress on governance, and assurance that the views of frontline professionals and the public will be centred throughout.

“AI may offer opportunities to address public sector challenges. Research from the Ada Lovelace Institute has found that public-sector leaders are optimistic about the potential of foundation models – the powerful AI systems underlying tools like ChatGPT – to enhance public services in the context of budgetary constraints and growing user needs.

“However, there are also risks.  We know that new technologies are not immune to old data problems. AI systems have a capacity for bias, which could lead to discrimination in public services and decision-making. There is also the potential for privacy breaches, and overreliance on private sector providers. It is imperative that these and other potential costs—such as adverse environmental impacts—are weighed against the benefits of using these technologies in the public sector.

“The pilot-based approach the Government is taking will be essential to assess whether tools like these work, and whether potential risks can be mitigated. We would like to see greater transparency about what interventions are being piloted and where, and how they will be evaluated. Investment in adopting AI across the public sector should be complemented by urgent progress on governance, such as the planned rollout of the Algorithmic Transparency Recording Standard across the public sector and a clear roadmap for applying the Government’s AI principles to public services.

“Ultimately, effective use of AI by public-sector organisations will require them to carefully consider whether these technologies might be more effective or provide better value for money than existing, more mature systems. Decisions about whether and how to implement AI in the public sector should reflect the priorities of frontline professionals and incorporate their expertise.

“The views of the public – particularly those of the diverse groups of people who use public services – should be at the heart of this process. AI could help to unlock significant public value, but to be effective this agenda will need to be driven not from Westminster and Whitehall, but by the needs of people and society.”

Image credit: sturti

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