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Government Adoption of New Technologies Has Mixed Results, Says GDS Report


A report commissioned by the Government Digital Service (GDS) has found that governmental departments are testing new technologies, particularly artificial intelligence and blockchain. The independent review, which interviewed tech leaders across departments, shows that there is little communication between departments, meaning that development is often siloed and departments risk “reinventing the wheel. ” Researchers found that there are a number of technologies being explored or trialled across governmental departments and local councils. These range from distributed ledgers, augmented reality and biometric identification to AI, deep learning and robotic process automation. Blockchain and AI are garnering the most interest, as both technologies have “potentially wide-ranging process, policy and regulatory impacts on automation, identity, decision making, privacy, security and trust,” according to the report. This includes projects at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Met Office and the Ordnance Survey, which are all looking at augmented reality. The Home Office, Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Environment Agency are also all looking at the potential for wearables to capture a range of data. However, although several departments are investigating the use of the two technologies, they are “often doing so independently and in a piecemeal fashion”. The amount of time and resource allocated to new testing new technologies vary, according to the study. Often, such efforts will be part of a department’s digital transformation manifesto. Some departments have set up digital innovation labs to support these initiatives. Experimentation with new technologies is often seen as a risk and that risk is amplified with scale. “Testing a new technology to improve a small back office process is different to deploying disruptive technologies like AI or distributed ledger technology in frontline services. Examples collected during the research range from low risk, low impact to high risk, high impact,” the report said. However, there is also risk attached to deploying untested technologies or doing nothing at all. The report advised for increased coordination between departments, as well as more visibility of new technology trials. A GDS-commissioned report has found artificial intelligence and blockchain are the most popular among emerging technologies in government, but projects are often done in silos and departments risk “reinventing the wheel.”