NSW developing Artificial Intelligence Strategy

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is everywhere and very much here and now, even at your corner store. You will find AI operating in the air-conditioning system, the lifts, when we search on-line for information, or consume music and video content.

Across all sectors, AI represents a significant opportunity for innovation, increased efficiency, and a more personalised and tailored user experience. That’s why the Department of Customer Service is leading the development of a whole of NSW Government AI Strategy – to harness the power of AI in order to deliver world-class public service for the people of NSW.

Importantly, the NSW Government AI Strategy will also strive to ensure the safe use of AI, finding the balance between opportunity and risk, and protecting customers and citizens need for privacy, security and ethical outcomes.

Since our last blog, we’ve developed a draft NSW Government User Framework, which will provide detailed toolkits for agencies to inform procurement and use of AI solutions. We will test and refine this document after further consultation with government users and industry experts.

Design thinking and co-design in policymaking

To develop a fit for purpose NSW AI Strategy, we’ve used a customer-centred design process in our approach to policy development to focus the Strategy on service delivery and better decision-making. In the past few months, we’ve carried out extensive consultation across government, industry and academia to better understand views on and potential risks of the use of AI solutions. This has included over 30 in depth one-hour interviews with a range of experts, experienced users, and those who may be relatively new to the world of AI but keen to take advantage of its potential.

Our consultation revealed a strong interest in NSW taking the lead on this area of policy development, and a commitment from stakeholders to stay involved as the policy framework is further refined.

We also held three drop-in consultation sessions where 80 individuals from industry, government and the general public attended and provided their individual insights. Their views included what they were concerned about, what they would like the NSW AI Strategy to include, and what they wanted the NSW Government to use AI for.

What we heard from the consultation process

The many insights fell into five and broad themes that will all be covered in the NSW AI Strategy, with actions to be developed after further consultation: 

  1. Building public trust

Senior industry, government and academic stakeholders told us that it is the responsibility of government to educate, and gain trust from, the community. Often, delivering a positive community outcome will contribute to public trust, but trust will also be strengthened by openly acknowledging the strengths of AI and managing its potential risks. 

  1. Best practice use of data

NSW citizens must have confidence that data used for AI projects is used safely and securely, and in a way that is consistent with privacy and data sharing requirements. While the NSW Government has put in place mechanisms that encourage open data, data sharing and data curation, both government and industry representatives wanted more clarity on what data can be shared and for what purpose.

  1. Building capability in government

We heard that there would be benefit in government lifting its capability in emerging technology, including in AI, in order to enable more informed decisions on AI procurement, AI solution maintenance and, more broadly, on AI as a potential solution to inform service delivery.

  1. Procurement

Both industry and government stakeholders expressed the view that there may be opportunities to enable the procurement framework to take more timely advantage of emerging technologies, including AI. Innovating and testing solutions through proofs of concept were seen as issues to be explored.

  1. Innovation and collaboration

A strong message from industry and academia that they want to work with government on better service delivery outcomes. We heard from these groups that: 

  • We need to leverage innovation capability in the SME sector. 
  • Academia are eager to understand the problems we are trying to solve and to collaborate. 
  • Government can be the creator of a bridge between industry, academia and agencies. 
  • To innovate and solve our ‘wicked’ problems, we need expertise from outside government. 

Next steps

We are currently building out the draft NSW AI Strategy to test with users and develop key actions we can take forward over the next 12 months.

These themes and a draft user framework of the NSW AI Strategy will also be further discussed at the AI Thought Leaders Summit on 29 November 2019, with a view to releasing the first AI Strategy in the first quarter of 2020.

The Customer Service Department is leading the development of a whole of NSW Government AI Strategy
The NSW Government AI Strategy will also strive to ensure the safe use of AI, finding the balance between opportunity and risk, and protecting customers and citizens’ need for privacy, security and ethical outcomes.