AI in public services will require empathy, accountability

Article by Yogesh Hirdaramani: “The Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has released the first of its Long Term Insights Briefing, which focuses on how the Government can integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into public services while maintaining the trustworthiness of public service delivery.

Public servants need to remain accountable and transparent with their use of AI, continue to demonstrate empathy for the people they serve, use AI to better meet people’s needs, and build AI literacy amongst the Australian public, the report stated.

The report also cited a forthcoming study that found that Australian residents with a deeper understanding of AI are more likely to trust the Government’s use of AI in service delivery. However,more than half of survey respondents reported having little knowledge of AI.

Key takeaways

The report aims to supplement current policy work on how AI can be best governed in the public service to realise its benefits while maintaining public trust.

In the longer term, the Australian Government aims to use AI to deliver personalised services to its citizens, deliver services more efficiently and conveniently, and achieve a higher standard of care for its ageing population.

AI can help public servants achieve these goals through automating processes, improving service processing and response time, and providing AI-enabled interfaces which users can engage with, such as chatbots and virtual assistants.

However, AI can also lead to unfair or unintended outcomes due to bias in training data or hallucinations, the report noted.

According to the report, the trustworthy use of AI will require public servants to:

  1. Demonstrate integrity by remaining accountable for AI outcomes and transparent about AI use
  2. Demonstrate empathy by offering face-to-face services for those with greater vulnerabilities 
  3. Use AI in ways that improve service delivery for end-users
  4. Build internal skills and systems to implement AI, while educating the public on the impact of AI

The Australian Taxation Office currently uses AI to identify high-risk business activity statements to determine whether refunds can be issued or if further review is required, noted the report. Taxpayers can appeal the decision if staff decide to deny refunds…(More)”