The Biden administration has recently set into action its initiative on AI (Artificial Intelligence). This is part of legislation that was passed last year and included a budget of $250 million (for a period of five years). The goals are to provide easier access to the troves of government data as well as provide for advanced systems to create AI models.
No doubt, this effort is a clear sign of the strategic importance of the technology. It is also a recognition that the U.S. does not want to fall behind other nations, especially China.
The AI task force has 12 distinguished members who are from government, private industry and academia. This diversity should help provide for a smarter approach.
But the focus on data will also be critical. “In areas of social importance such as housing, healthcare, education or other social determinants, the government is the only central organizer of data,” said Dr. Trishan Panch, who is the co-founder of Wellframe. “As such, if AI is going to deliver gains in these areas, the government has to be involved.”
Yet there will certainly be challenges. Let’s face it, the U.S. government often moves slowly and is burdened with various levels of local, state and federal authorities.
“To achieve the initiative’s vision, government entities will need to go beyond sharing best practices and figure out how to share more data across departments,” said Justin Borgman, who is the CEO of Starburst. “For instance, expanding open data initiatives which today are largely siloed by departments, would greatly improve access to data. That would give Artificial Intelligence systems more fuel to do their jobs.”
If anything, there will be a need for a different mindset from the government. And this could be a heavy lift. “Based on my experience in the public sector, the major challenge for the government is addressing the ‘Missing Middle,’” said Jon Knisley, who is the Principal of Automation and Process Excellence at FortressIQ. “There are a number of very advanced programs on one end, and then there are a lot of emerging programs on the other end. The greatest opportunity lies in closing that gap and driving more adoption. To be successful, there should be a focus as much as possible on applied AI.”
But the government initiative can do something that has been difficult for the private sector to achieve—that is, to help reskill the workforce for AI. This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for the U.S.
“The question is: How do we create a large AI data science force that is integrated across every industry and department in the US?,” said Judy Lenane, who is the Chief Medical Officer at iRhythm. “To start, we’ll need to begin AI curriculum early and encourage its growth in order to build a comprehensive workforce. This will be especially critical for industries that are currently behind in technological adoption, such as construction and infrastructure, but it also needs to be accessible.”
In the meantime, the Biden AI effort will need to deal with the complex issues of privacy and ethics.
“Presently there is significant resistance on this subject given that most consumers feel that their privacy has been compromised,” said Alice Jacobs, who is the CEO of convrg,ai. “This is the result of a lack of transparency around managing consents and proper safeguards to ensure that data is secure. We will only be able to be successful if we can manage consents in a way where the consumer feels in control of their data. Transparent unified consent management will be the path forward to alleviate resistance around data access and can provide the US a competitive advantage in this data and AI arms race.”