Guidelines  |    |  September 1, 2019

World Economic Forum: Guidelines for AI Procurement

Guidelines prepared by the World Economic Forum. 18 pages.


Why do we need guidelines for public procurement of AI?

Governments are increasingly seeking to capture the opportunities offered by AI to improve public-sector productivity and the provision of services to the public, and to stimulate the economy. AI holds the potential to vastly improve government operations and meet the needs of citizens in new ways, ranging from traffic management to healthcare delivery to processing tax forms. However, governments often lack experience in acquiring modern AI solutions and many public institutions are cautious about harnessing this powerful technology. Guidelines for public procurement can help in a number of ways.

First, government and the general public have justified concerns over bias, privacy, accountability, transparency and overall complexity. New incidents are emerging of negative consequences arising from the use of AI in areas such as criminal sentencing, law enforcement and even employment opportunities. As citizens increasingly demand the same level of service from their governments as they do from innovative private-sector companies, public officials will be required not only to identify the specific benefits AI can bring, but also to understand the negative outcomes that can be generated.

Governments do not have the latitude of using the inscrutable “black box” algorithms that increasingly characterize AI deployed by industry. Without clear guidance on how to ensure accountability, transparency and explainability, governments may fail in their responsibility to meet public expectations of both expert and democratic oversight of algorithmic decisionmaking and may inadvertently create new risks or harms . . .