Nov 12 2021

Virginia to Offer a Suite of AI Services to State Agencies

Starting next year, the state’s IT authority hopes to offer Artificial Intelligence as a Service across a range of functions and use cases.

Artificial intelligence is starting to grow up in Virginia. The commonwealth is planning to offer AI delivered as a service to a variety of state agencies, starting next year.

In 2022, the Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA) plans to offer AI and machine learning software to other state agencies as well.

Virginia CIO Nelson Moe previewed the shift in October during the annual conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. He said that he sees predictive analytics; operations management; decision support; and the prevention of fraud, waste and abuse as key use cases. “We want to take it up the value chain across the board,” Moe said during a panel on AI.

Virginia was looking to use a contractor to aid in AI deployment across state agencies. “We are looking for entities that will help us with the back end of the AI and tool selection and with helping us understand the state of the market of what’s out there in AI, because it’s changing,” Moe said.

The rollout comes amid an acceleration in adoption of AI within state agencies. According to a joint NASCIO/Center for Digital Government/IBM study released last month, 60 percent of survey respondents said they had deployed AI solutions, compared with 13 percent in 2019.

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How Virginia Plans to Spread AI Across State Agencies

Jonathan Ozovek, VITA’s COO, tells StateScoop the agency is offering the AI-based tools to state agencies in the health, transportation and public safety realms. VITA also plans to use the tools internally.

The AI offering will include end-to-end cybersecurity and performance monitoring, according to Ozovek. If agencies VITA is speaking with accept they will be deployed next year, he says.

The AI capabilities that will be offered include image recognition and fraud detection. However, VITA will need to work with state agencies to train employees on using the tools, so it seems adoption could be gradual.

“We’re going to scope it by use case so we don’t boil the ocean, so we give some kind of standardized input and output,” Ozovek tells StateScoop. “But once we do that upfront analysis, we’re very upfront with the customer, similar to the RPA as a Service construct, and we say, ‘these are the areas of opportunity in your environment,’ and we even give them advice to say, ‘your data needs to be cleansed before we can even do anything.’”

RELATED: How is AI use accelerating in state government?

The NASCIO/CDG/IB survey indicated that state agencies plan to expand their use of AI over time. According to the survey, just over half (56 percent) believe AI can transform their organizations in one to three years, and just under a quarter (23 percent) believe it can happen right away.

However, a lack of skilled staff, legacy modernization challenges, difficulty in identifying use cases and a lack of data or poor data quality are all obstacles to adoption, the survey found.

To overcome such challenges, the survey’s report advises states to “organize, standardize and format their data to make it readily digestible by AI algorithms.” IT leaders should also identify AI success stories they can point to in an effort to bring employees along.

Deploying AI requires policies that help IT leaders balance agencies’ demands with IT departments’ supply of people, Pennsylvania CIO John MacMillan notes in the report. “When the application of the technology needs prioritization, we’re ready to flex and meet that demand,” he says.

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