NSW govt unveils first AI strategy

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NSW govt unveils first AI strategy

Will establish new AI oversight body.

The NSW government on Friday released its inaugural artificial intelligence (AI) strategy, outlining how it plans to use the technology to create jobs and improve service delivery.

The strategy prioritises the development of AI skills in government and strengthening of industry relationships through a more consistent approach to the procurement of AI products and services.

The strategy was initially expected to be delivered at the beginning of the year, before the state government delayed the launch to give itself more time to grapple with “complex issues” in consultation with industry and academia.

A new body called the NSW Government AI Review Committee will be established to oversee the implementation of the strategy and use of AI across the government.

It will be chaired by the NSW chief data scientist Ian Opperman, whose work will span all government agencies.

Customer Service minister Victor Dominello said the strategy sets out guidelines for how AI can be used in a trusted, tested and transparent manner.

“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,” Dominello said.

“This strategy brings together the three key pillars of privacy, transparency and security, within the prism of ethics.”

AI will be used to help automate inefficient and manual processes, the state’s policy site said, delivering better value to customers and freeing government staff up to spend more time on “critical or frontline work”.

It will also be used to assist in decision-making processes concerning resource allocation.

However, the government indicated decisions that impact citizens or their human rights will not be unilaterally made by AI, with “quick and efficient” reviews available for those impacted by AI-informed decisions.

“Citizens should be able to understand how their data is being used and for what purpose,” it said.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian added that the strategy is expected to create “thousands” of jobs across the state through increased demand for cyber security experts, data scientists and engineers, and other IT professionals.

“This is great news for citizens, researchers and businesses. We know how important AI is and this strategy puts us at the forefront of this emerging space,” she said.

“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.”

Delivery and implementation is expected to occur in stages over the next 12-18 months to gradually develop mature processes in government and foster community understanding in its use.

First up will be risk-management protocols, such as the immediate implementation of a mandatory AI policy and user guide to support a consistent approach to issues like privacy, security and transparency.

The policy outlines the requirements agencies must address before sourcing and using AI, and will be tested and refined over the next 12 months.

AI is already in use across a number of government agencies, such as Transport for NSW’s, which is using it to proactively manage asset maintenance schedules.

NSW's Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is also using computer vision to identify and protect threatened plants and animals.

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