IT & Networks

Why agencies should look to industry for AI

The National Science and Technology Council wants federal agencies to partner with the private sector as they explore the benefits of artificial intelligence.

In an update to the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan from NSTC’s Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, the NSTC called on agencies to “expand public–private partnerships to accelerate advances in AI.”

The updated report says that agencies should focus on private-public partnerships because they allow the government and industry to combine resources — such as facilities, personnel or data sets — in addition to providing educational opportunities and training for future researchers, technicians and leaders.

“Federal agencies must therefore continue to pursue and strengthen public-private partnerships in AI R&D to drive technology development and economic growth by leveraging investments and expertise in areas of mutual interest to government, industry, and academia,” the report said.

Based on public comments since August 2018, the NSTC updated the 2016 strategic plan that set objectives for federal-funded AI research. The original report outlined seven strategies for developing AI, but the public comments for the updated report suggested NSTC adopt a public-private partnerships as its eighth strategy.

“The federal government must therefore continually reevaluate its priorities for AI R&D investments, to ensure that investments continue to advance the cutting edge of the field and are not unnecessarily duplicative of industry investments,” said Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president for technology policy.

The report identified four areas of public-private partnerships that have proven productive for agencies: individual project-based collaborations; joint programs to advance open, precompetitive, fundamental research; collaborations to deploy and enhance research infrastructure; and collaborations to enhance workforce development including broadening participation.

“In each of these cases, leveraging each partner’s strengths for the benefit of all is vitally important to achieving success,” the report said.

The updated report addresses only AI research and development by agencies and doesn’t develop any policy or regulatory recommendations regarding the use of AI. Still, the updated report received praise from AI advocates on Capitol Hill.

“Research and development funding by the federal government to augment existing efforts by the private sector is essential to ensure continued American leadership in AI and other critical emerging technologies,” Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said in a statement.

More research is also needed on how to remove any racial, gender, age or economic-status bias, the report said. As AI is deployed in more spaces in the government, bias in the technology is a particular concern, especially on Capitol Hill.

The other seven AI development strategies are:

  • Make long-term investments in AI research;
  • Develop effective methods for human-AI collaboration;
  • Understand and address the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI;
  • Ensure the safety and security of AI systems;
  • Develop shared public datasets and environments for AI training and testing;
  • Measure and evaluate AI technologies through standards and benchmarks; and
  • Better understand the national AI R&D workforce needs.

“Ultimately, AI technologies are critical for addressing a range of long-term challenges, such as constructing advanced health care systems, a robust intelligent transportation system, and resilient energy and telecommunication networks,” the report said.

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