UK Government doubles down efforts to deploy AI across the public sector

In a speech made yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden, it was announced that the Government has set aside £110m to speed up the deployment of artificial intelligence technologies (AI) across the public sector.

This large package of funding aims to deliver on the Government's ambition to deploy AI to help create a leaner state, while increasing productivity, making vast efficiency savings and improving the delivery of public services such as healthcare, education, crime prevention, immigration and wider public administration.

Government grown innovation

To deliver this, the Government will more than double its capacity of the Cabinet Office backed Incubator for AI (iAI), made up of highly empowered technical experts tasked with improving UK’s AI capabilities within Government.

iAI will introduce new projects beyond its existing 10 pilot programmes across the Government, such as a tool to summarise consultation responses, as well as technologies to flag fraud and error in systems, and create more efficient processes. An AI-enabled chatbot will also be rolled out across to provide a better user experience for individuals accessing the website.

The incubator will be guided by four principles: sharing best practice across Government, deploying individual models to multiple use-cases, finding economies of scale and ensuring interoperability between systems. Applications will primarily be used by public services to spot patterns of fraud and error, help the public navigate services, manage casework and automate internal processes.

A joined-up approach

Government Departments will be required, as agreed with the Treasury, to collaborate with iAI when rolling out AI-related projects to ensure that when new technologies are invested in, due consideration is given to efficiency, interoperability and ability to scale its use across multiple departments.

An example of how this more joined up approach could work in practice, includes the newly announced signing of a “Collaboration Charter” between i.AI and NHS England, which will focus on AI pilots that improve services for patients.

Further to this, a National Science and Technology Council on AI for public sector good will be convened, bringing together Minister’s from every department that are responsible for AI in their area. This will be co-chaired by Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science and Technology and Minister Burghart, Parliamentary Secretary for Cabinet Office.

AI Safety remains a priority

Separately, the UK also announced today, a new £800,000 package of funding to boost research collaboration with France, as well as a new partnership between the UK’s AI Safety Institute and France’s Inria (National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology). This mirrors similar partnerships the UK has made with the likes of the US and Singapore.

These partnerships follows on from a landmark agreement made between world leaders on frontier AI testing, which was struck at the inaugural AI Safety Summit hosted by the UK in November 2023. France is set to host the next in-person Summit later this year.

Next steps...

This announcement marks a significant and welcomed amount of funding that aims high to revolutionise the use of AI in public services, and puts good mechanisms in place for public sector-wide collaboration. However, its success in delivering on these ambitions depends on the Government addressing its own shortcomings when implementing large-scale digital transformation projects, and still continuing to bring private sector-led innovative products and solutions into Government.

There are also wider questions on what transparency mechanisms will be in place to update the public on the use of this fund, how progress and success will be evaluated, and how the initiative will interact with the Government's recently published pro-innovation approach to AI regulation.

For example, how will the Ministerial Council on AI for public sector good interact with the new Inter-Ministerial Group announced in the Government's response to the AI White Paper, what role will the Responsible Technology Adoption Unit play in supporting the Government, and what oversight mechanisms will be in place to ensure the Government meets its own principles for AI governance when deploying its AI technology in public services.

Dani Dhiman

Dani Dhiman

Policy Manager, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Regulation, techUK

Heather Cover-Kus

Heather Cover-Kus

Head of Central Government Programme, techUK


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