15 May 2024
by Adrian Peachey

Innovating with AI: Monitor the hype, be driven by value and build justifiable trust

Guest blog from Adrian Peachey at BAE Systems as part of our #UnleashInnovation campaign week 2024.

We find ourselves hurtling towards Summer 2024, close to 18 months since ChatGPT caused us to reconsider – or at the very least ponder – what it means to be intelligent and creative, opening up a new world of possibilities on our journey towards improved Government Services. 

It’s all extremely exciting, but it can feel like we’re still in the age of hype rather than the era of adopting next generation applications, where moving from experiment to AI-enabled Government digital products is still a little out of reach. The reality sits somewhere in the middle. 

For many businesses, it is possible that by carefully monitoring the horizon (the hype), focusing on value and establishing a scaffold of justified trust, we can realise the benefits of this technology sooner rather than later. 

Monitoring the hype 

It is crucial for Government to remain curious and aware on AI. However, the pace of change in AI will naturally introduce the sort of weariness that organisations experience when they attempt to implement too many (however well intentioned) change activities at once; change fatigue. 

Consider instead maintaining an innovation function that can trial new developments adjacent to and on behalf of Product Teams and regularly share findings, as GDS and i.AI have done (working in the open – top marks!). This helps to maintain excitement and curiosity, develop DDAT talent, and ensure we all learn from each other. Remember that there’s plenty of great content available to help with your own AI experiments, including this extremely helpful resource from David Knott’s team within CDDO on Generative AI. 

And for maximum points, perhaps there are more opportunities for cross-departmental innovation teams or events (e.g. hackathons) to combine talent and solve challenges together. As we know, being a key element of the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, diversity of thought is a catalyst for success. 

Driven by value 

With the exciting capabilities on offer, you could be forgiven for thinking that AI is a solution looking for a problem; the antithesis of the goal and value-driven development approaches many of us have come to recognise and passionately adopt. Perhaps instead we need to again assume our curious mindset and – recognising some common groupings of capability such as Image Recognition, Speech Recognition, Search, Predictions, Understanding, and Content Generation etc. – look at Live Digital Products. We should be incorporating the User-Centered Design techniques and feedback loops that are commonplace in the development of Government Services to identify where the service and experience could be improved. 

There are some natural candidates which appear to be valuable ‘low-hanging fruit’ and could dramatically improve users’ experience (be it citizens or Civil Servants) with Digital Services. For example, content search is often a torrid experience despite accomplished search architectures and tooling existing for decades. What they often lack that AI neatly steps in to address is Natural Language Understanding. Through the implementation of a modern Generative AI solution architecture (like Retrieval-Augmented Generation), it’s possible for users to interact effortlessly with search. 

Our Cyber Threat Intelligence Portal (CTIP) for example, which provides our customers with the most accessible and up-to-date threat intelligence, has AI-enabled search to help our user community make faster and more informed decisions. This innovative feature, powered by Azure Cognitive Services and OpenAI's API, came as a result of our strategic relationship with Microsoft and was one of the first production implementations of this approach. But this is starting to happen in Government too. For example, the FCDO recently launched its AI-enabled search function in private beta. This new service will ensure that citizens abroad can gain access to critical information faster than ever before. Awesome. 

Building Justified Trust 

One of the most remarkable releases of 2024 comes from Viscount Camrose’s team in DSIT, an “Introduction to AI Assurance”, which effectively elaborates the March 2023 Pro-Innovation whitepaper by providing a toolkit for assurance (Measure, Evaluate, and Communicate). It also illuminates the existing regulatory landscape and coins the phrase “Justified Trust”. 

Justified Trust is a lovely term and can be expressed as the intersection between trust and trustworthiness, where “a person or group trusts the use of an AI system based on reliable evidence”. Achieving this of course is no mean feat. Together we will need to prove that our solutions are safe, secure, explainable, transparent, fair and ethical – and that we have the relevant governance in place to monitor the development and delivery of AI solutions through life. This will rely on a collection of things being in place including: 

  • Excellent data hygiene (as AI is only as good as the data pipeline feeding it) 

  • Robust security controls 

  • New (and exciting) testing techniques 

  • The generation of synthetic data (e.g. to address bias in source data) 

BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, like many of our customers across Government, has been on a journey of experimentation and incremental adoption of new AI capabilities into production, with a focus on justified trust. To help our internal adoption, we developed our AI Assessment Service which covers the topics outlined above as well as referencing key components of the NIST AI RMF and ISO42001. 

The AI Assessment Service is also available to our partners across Government, providing a posture assessment against the AI assurance landscape considering all phases of the AI development lifecycle ensuring our customers can build justified trust. 

So, in order to make sure that as a collective we are building innovative next-generation applications that are right for businesses and the people using them, we must remain curious and carefully monitor the hype, find the most valuable use cases (recognising that many may already exist in our live digital products), and ensure we are all building justified trust.


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The UK is home to emerging technologies that have the power to revolutionise entire industries. From quantum to semiconductors; from gaming to the New Space Economy, they all have the unique opportunity to help prepare for what comes next.

techUK members lead the development of these technologies. Together we are working with Government and other stakeholders to address tech innovation priorities and build an innovation ecosystem that will benefit people, society, economy and the planet - and unleash the UK as a global leader in tech and innovation.

For more information, or to get in touch, please visit our Innovation Hub and click ‘contact us’. 


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Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Head of Technology and Innovation, techUK

Rory Daniels

Rory Daniels

Programme Manager, Emerging Technologies

Tess Buckley

Tess Buckley

Programme Manager - Digital Ethics and AI Safety, techUK

Usman Ikhlaq

Usman Ikhlaq

Programme Manager - Artificial Intelligence, techUK

 

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Authors

Adrian Peachey

Adrian Peachey

Chief Technology Officer - Central Government, BAE Systems