ESCAP – Artificial Intelligence emerging as a helpful tool for governments to deliver public services, reveals new UN-Google report

Bangkok (ESCAP news) – A new study launched by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Google today showcases models of leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for public services in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

The Artificial Intelligence in the Delivery of Public Services study is a first of its kind collaboration between the UN Secretariat and Google, showcasing examples of how artificial intelligence can be used in the public sector.

“On the path to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, governments in Asia and the Pacific are urgently pursuing innovative means to deliver effective, efficient and fair public services. Frontier technologies such as AI hold promise to reimagine how the public sector can better serve sustainable development needs,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

She added, “I look forward to continuing to strengthen the partnership with Google and enable the countries in the region to better leverage frontier technologies for sustainable development.”

“As part of our regional partnership on AI for Social Good, we are pleased to collaborate with UN-ESCAP to showcase some good practices and lessons learned in the use of AI for public service delivery. As AI advancements are increasingly deployed in sectors ranging from healthcare, the environment and education, we see exciting opportunities for public sector agencies to bring these benefits to larger and larger populations, said Ted Osius, Vice President for Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google Asia Pacific “we hope that the lessons captured in this report help inspire people to identify more areas where AI could help tackle challenges in the public sector.”

Although AI is a widely discussed topic today, case studies on how AI is concretely applied in the public sector are rare. The report aims to fill the gap and features insights as well as context-specific recommendations from deployments of AI in a variety of sectors: health, justice, agriculture, environment, insurance and social welfare.

Public-private partnerships will become increasingly important to complement government initiatives with industry knowledge and expertise. Amid the rapid pace of technological development, the report recommends that governments develop frameworks to regulate these partnerships and encourage more public information on AI projects to foster a landscape conducive to informed decision-making on AI partnerships.

Since applying AI in the public sector is still at an early stage of development, setbacks and a trial-and-error process may be inevitable. Case studies in the report highlight how a competitive selection process may spell the way forward to discover and initiate pioneering AI technology in public service delivery. Through thorough research and contestation, both the private sector and public benefit in the learning process of developing AI solutions.

The report is one of the outcomes of a Memorandum of Understanding initiated between ESCAP and Google in December 2018 to share good practices and solutions on promoting AI for social good.

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