Governments take ethics and transparency into account in advanced technologies


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As Stephen Hawking once said, “Our future is a race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which we use it. While the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the government to modernize quickly for the remote world in 2020, 2021 has seen public agencies work to make this transition fair, transparent and safe. Over the past year, emerging technologies have reshaped not only what government is able to do for voters, but also people’s expectations of government.

As public sector agencies have found their place in the remote world, private sector innovation has reached new heights – literally, as in space travel. Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched several rockets into space, while Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson launched. And the alien exploration work of these three billionaires takes place at a time when satellite internet is becoming a more viable option for connecting currently unserved communities to the internet.

And as satellite internet options skyrocketed, the pandemic challenged governments, resulting in new public-private partnerships and solutions; for example, private partners are helping the government make significant progress towards universal broadband.


Other technologies have followed a similar trajectory. Robots and drones are more common in delivering food, medicine, and other commodities. However, some government uses, like Spot, the New York Police Department’s robot dog, have drawn backlash from the public and civil liberties groups clinging to fears of surveillance.

A notable advance in recent months is the use of virtual and augmented reality in the public sector. While its specific value is still being studied by organizations such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, it is redefining the way many agencies hire, train and retain talent. From workforce development to tourism to emergency response, it has been shown to improve retention and reduce training costs.

The pandemic has also given way to other significant changes in the workforce, highlighting gaps that exist in some sectors, including IT. While some state-owned solutions, like Indiana’s Hoosier Talent Network, use artificial intelligence to help match applicants with job openings, some experts have expressed concerns about the technology’s potential for bias – a a problem that is frequently raised in debates about government use. The World Health Organization released a report this year offering guidance for the ethical use of AI in healthcare, but a comprehensive set of regulations for AI in government has failed. yet been established. Meanwhile, the government continues to explore its use, including advancing cybersecurity defenses and improving workflow efficiency using tools such as robotic process automation.

Ethical questions have also been raised about facial recognition as disparities are highlighted in how this technology identifies transgender people, people of color, and non-binary individuals. Several cities and states have regulations in place banning or restricting the use of facial recognition and other AI-based tools to allay fears about their use, suggesting that the technology still has work to do to address it. prove its worth.

Federal policymakers have set their sights on deepfakes in 2021, videos that feature realistic audio and video of someone who has been fraudulently manipulated. For example, this technology could make it look like an authority figure is saying something she has never said. These videos are a growing concern in disinformation discourse, sparking discussions on how to curb their proliferation online. Programs like Cyber ​​Florida provide students with the skills to determine the validity of information they find on the Internet and to emphasize the value of that particular skill.

But while government entities have made rapid strides in modernization in the COVID-19 era, newer doesn’t always mean better. In their rush to deploy new technology, some are quick to dismiss the value of existing systems that can still do the important work of government. Take COBOL, for example, a five-decade-old programming language that often surfaces in conversations about the shameful state of legacy computing. But COBOL, and other older technologies, is a known quantity with known capabilities. A more focused problem-solving approach, rather than an approach to abolish all legacy technologies, is probably the more prudent solution, as new technologies may not always add value to the business.

“And at the end of the day, what you have now is a new program that does exactly the same thing as the old program, and you sit down and say, ‘Why did I spend my money on this project? ‘ William Malik, vice president of infrastructure strategies at Trend Micro, asked in an article examining COBOL this year on govtech.com.

Ultimately, technology leaders in government must continue to intelligently evangelize the benefits that new tools can bring to improve public sector organizations in their core missions. By advocating for scalable pilot projects where results are closely measured and communicated in a transparent manner, CIOs have a key role to play in maintaining and developing the public’s appetite for innovation using new technologies.

Julia Edinger is a writer for Government Technology. She holds a BA in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. It is currently located in Southern California.

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