A Snapshot of Artificial Intelligence Procurement Challenges

Press Release: “The GovLab has released a new report offering recommendations for government in procuring artificial intelligence (AI) tools. As the largest purchaser of technology, it is critical for the federal government to adapt its procurement practices to ensure that beneficial AI tools can be responsibly and rapidly acquired and that safeguards are in place to ensure that technology improves people’s lives while minimizing risks. 

Based on conversations with over 35 leaders in government technology, the report identifies key challenges impeding successful procurement of AI, and offers five urgent recommendations to ensure that government is leveraging the benefits of AI to serve residents:

  1. Training: Invest in training public sector professionals to understand and differentiate between high- and low-risk AI opportunities. This includes teaching individuals and government entities to define problems accurately and assess algorithm outcomes. Frequent training updates are necessary to adapt to the evolving AI landscape.
  2. Tools: Develop decision frameworks, contract templates, auditing tools, and pricing models that empower procurement officers to confidently acquire AI. Open data and simulated datasets can aid in testing algorithms and identifying discriminatory effects.
  3. Regulation and Guidance: Recognize the varying complexity of AI use cases and develop a system that guides acquisition professionals to allocate time appropriately. This approach ensures more problematic cases receive thorough consideration.
  4. Organizational Change: Foster collaboration, knowledge sharing, and coordination among procurement officials and policymakers. Including mechanisms for public input allows for a multidisciplinary approach to address AI challenges.
  5. Narrow the Expertise Gap: Integrate individuals with expertise in new technologies into various government departments, including procurement, legal, and policy teams. Strengthen connections with academia and expand fellowship programs to facilitate the acquisition of relevant talent capable of auditing AI outcomes. Implement these programs at federal, state, and local government levels…(More)”