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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Artificial intelligence proves major time savings for federal employees | - Technology

Photo: Jory Heckman
"Federal agencies are embracing the idea of artificial intelligence, and in test cases, adopting machine learning has cut down on some of the tedious aspects of working with government data" notes Jory Heckman, reporter at Federal News Radio since January 2018. 

The phrase “artificial intelligence” can stir up a lot of panic at some federal agencies, and can give rise to the idea of intelligent machines putting some employees out of work.

However, some federal agencies are embracing the idea of artificial intelligence, and in those test cases, adopting machine learning comes down to a few key strategies like starting small and managing expectations.

While AI isn’t a panacea for every big-data problem in government, agency leaders say they see value in using machine learning to handle the most tedious aspects of handling data, which frees up human operators to address more mission-critical issues.

“Artificial intelligence is an imperative. It’s not something that’s nice to have, or something that we should consider at some point,” Teresa Smetzer, the director of digital futures at the Central Intelligence Agency said Tuesday during an event sponsored by Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for the Business of Government. “We have an enormous exponential growth in the amount of data, the variety of data, the velocity of data, and our nation’s security really depends on our ability to quickly understand what data we have, what it means and how we’re going to use it.”

While still in its early stages, artificial intelligence has received lots of buy-in from the private sector and the academic world. But Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), a co-founder of the Artificial Intelligence Caucus on Capitol Hill, said the conversation around AI has not yet addressed the implications for lawmakers and the federal government.

“AI has the ability to provide lawmakers like me with up-to-date information, leading to better-informed decisions. And since AI never, ever forgets, its constant review of the effectiveness of policy gives lawmakers and government officials the opportunity to be proactive and address issues as they first crop up, and not wait to deal with them years and years later, when the problems get much, much, much bigger,” Olson said.

The key to going forward with new developments with AI, Olson said, includes protecting the privacy of individuals’ personal information in databases and educating the workforce to view artificial intelligence as a tool, and not as a competitor.

Mallory Barg Bulman, the vice president of research and evaluation at the Partnership for Public Service, said the rise of AI comes at a time when agencies face new technology-driven challenges, but haven’t received new funds or manpower to address them.
“We’re at a time in government where we’re not able to do more, with more,” Bulman said. 

“We’re really trying to look for that Option C. What is that other option? What is the way to do things differently to achieve critical outcomes?”