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The impact.

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in partnership with the UK government, has developed guidelines for more ethical and efficient government procurement of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Governments across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East are piloting these guidelines to improve their AI procurement processes.

Our guidelines not only serve as a handy reference tool for governments looking to adopt AI technology, but also set baseline standards for effective, responsible public procurement and deployment of AI – standards that can be eventually adopted by industries.

By bringing together more than 100 government, industry, academic and civil society experts to build and continuously improve these guidelines, we’re helping governments around the world streamline their AI procurement processes and access this powerful technology to better serve the public.

What’s the challenge?

Artificial intelligence can transform government services, from preventing traffic congestion and providing speedy customer service to predicting crime and infrastructure failure. If implemented properly, AI could deliver an additional $939 billion in value across the public sectors of 16 major developed economies by 2035.

Yet, despite AI’s promising benefits, governments have been slow to adopt the technology and have struggled to keep up with its latest innovations. They may not have the required expertise to make informed buying decisions for AI-powered solutions, or may fear risking a public backlash if the technology is not deployed responsibly. This often leads to governments delaying procurement decisions or reducing perceived risk by purchasing AI solutions from large and well-known suppliers, which may not always be the best choice. Unfortunately, this also means that ethical AI providers do not have a competitive advantage.

Our approach.

In late 2018, we teamed up with the UK government to develop transparent guidelines that would help governments make informed procurement decisions and allow both established and new AI providers to compete on a level playing field for government contracts. These guidelines, which provide public officials with a detailed checklist of factors to consider when acquiring AI technology, have been recently updated to reflect input from more than 100 leading experts from government, business, academia and civil society.

These guidelines are meant to be a living document that will incorporate feedback from practitioners over time. While much of the feedback will come from the project’s community of subject matter experts and from pilots run by partner governments, we invite other stakeholders and the general public to provide feedback as well.

Our objective is to enable governments and international bodies to set the right policies, protocols and standards to facilitate effective, responsible and ethical use of AI by the public sector.

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