NSW’s first AI strategy wants to build public trust and data capability

By Shannon Jenkins

Sunday September 6, 2020

Gladys Berejiklian
Gladys Berejiklian (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

The New South Wales government’s first artificial intelligence strategy aims to increase understanding and use of AI across the state public sector.

An AI Review Committee chaired by NSW chief data scientist Ian Oppermann would also be established to review initial AI project plans to ensure consistency with the AI Ethics Policy.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday said the strategy would create thousands of jobs across the state and demand for IT professionals, cyber security experts, data scientists, and engineers.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics will play a pivotal role in shaping our state’s future economy and we cannot be spectators on the sidelines. We must lead and be the engine room for future jobs,” she said.

The strategy contained three key pillars — privacy, transparency and security — “within the prism of ethics”, according to customer service minister Victor Dominello.

“Whether it’s at home, online, on the road or at the supermarket, the use of AI is becoming more prevalent in day-to-day life and is often deployed in subtle ways to make customer interactions and services more seamless,” he said.

The strategy has been informed by consultation with industry, university, government and non-government organisations. In response to the feedback, the strategy has highlighted five key areas:

  • Build public trust by delivering and showcasing positive outcomes for the community, openly acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of AI, and managing potential risks.
  • Digital uplift through a broad program of digital capability uplift for the NSW public sector, which would incorporate upskilling on emerging technologies.
  • Build data capability so that citizens can have confidence that data for AI projects would be used safely and securely, consistent with privacy and data sharing frameworks, and community expectations.
  • Procurement frameworks updated to take more timely advantage of emerging technologies.
  • Innovation and collaboration with industry and academia to drive better service delivery and solve complex problems.

Under the strategy for upskilling the public sector, the government has planned to leverage the ICT Professionals Community of Practice for professional development on emerging technologies like AI, engage with the Skills Framework for the Information Age foundation regarding updating its framework to include AI-related technical capabilities, and leverage case studies to inform skills requirements related to AI capabilities and workforce planning.

The state government said it would identify new actions across all the five key areas in the future.

Berejiklian and Dominello listed a number of examples of AI currently being used in government. For example, Transport for NSW has used AI and machine learning to anticipate required maintenance and schedule downtime for maintenance.

NSW Health has been using algorithms from deidentified medical records to assist with the early detection and treatment of sepsis in emergency department waiting rooms. Meanwhile, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has utilised drones and AI to identify and protect threatened plants and animals.

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