UK citizens uneasy about artificial intelligence in public sector

4 Jun 18

Citizens are nervous about artificial intelligence being used to make decisions in the provision of public services, according to a poll.

The Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, which conducted the survey in partnership with YouGov, called for a public dialogue when moving towards new technologies to strengthen confidence in AI.

The RSA report said citizens should be consulted about AI so that their views can help steer governance in the best interest of society.

In his foreword to the report, RSA chief Matthew Taylor, who will be speaking at the CIPFA conference next month, said: “Given public concern about the impact on people’s lives of cutting edge technologies like AI, it is urgent and vital to hear the voice of informed citizens in shaping norms, practice and policies.”

The poll in the UK found that most citizens do not feel comfortable with the use of AI in the public services.

The report said that AI has “enormous promise” in fields as diverse as education, health and transport, but there are also risks.

“As with any technology, AI’s potential to help or harm us depends on how it’s applied and overseen,” the report said.

AI systems have been used by the private sector for years, and are used, for example, to inform decisions about granting loans and managing recruitment.

The report said that many public bodies in the UK are now exploring and experimenting with the use of the technology to make decisions regarding planning and managing new infrastructure, reducing tax fraud, rating the performance of schools and hospitals, and deploying policing resources. 

The RSA added it is important that the public feels confident this technology is being deployed responsibly and will “uplift society”.

Taylor will speak at the CIPFA conference in Bournemouth in July, at a session called Mapping the Digital State, which will look at how public finance professionals can adapt their roles in a world of ever-advancing technology.

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