Feb 08 2024

State and Local Organizations Assess Using AI Responsibly

Many government employees will soon first use artificial intelligence on the job.

A few short months ago, Microsoft added Copilot to its commercial Windows 11 operating system. Copilot, a generative artificial intelligence assistant, aims to simplify workstation tasks. With this rollout, Microsoft becomes an even bigger player in the field of emerging AI tools, and likely the single largest one for many state and local government employees.

With Microsoft’s Copilot, many government workers will use approved AI tools overtly in their jobs for the first time. Some state and local governments have prepared for this eventuality and the idea that an increasing number of employees will use AI daily. In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order to set “guardrails” for state employee use of AI.

“The Commonwealth must meet the challenges and opportunities posed by this transformative technology, ensuring that the Commonwealth remains competitive and innovative in the years to come while protecting its citizens from its risks and potential threats,” the executive order reads.

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In San Jose, Calif., the city’s Information Technology Department issued guidelines for government use of generative AI, recognizing “the opportunity for a controlled and responsible approach that acknowledges the benefits to efficiency while minimizing the risks around AI bias, privacy and cybersecurity.”

Government Working Groups Examine AI Best Practices

San Jose details seven guidelines for generative AI use by local agencies, including making generative AI systems subject to public records access, double-checking AI results against multiple sources and participating in AI best practice workgroups.

Nationally, key organizations have established AI working groups. Through its Center for Best Practices, the National Governors Association assembled a list of state resources on AI to offer guidance to state governments. The National Association of Counties established an AI Exploratory Committee. Among the committee’s mandates is a mission to examine “consequences of AI through the lens of county government governance, operations, constituent services, innovation, public trust, privacy and security, and workforce productivity.”

In a recent blog post, Microsoft notes that Copilot is “set to redefine how government agencies work.” But the company also emphasizes its commitment to “responsible AI innovation” while securely broadening AI access to agencies that handle sensitive information.

Microsoft promises to introduce Copilot to its Microsoft 365 Government Community Cloud users in summer 2024. Working together, the company and state and local governments can prepare for this first major test of mass AI deployment by states, counties and cities.

Umnat Seebuaphan / getty images

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