9 October 2019

AI for public benefit - how the public sector must leverage innovation procurement and market engagement

AI for public benefit - how the public sector must leverage innovation procurement and market engagement

Image (Unsplash) by "Alina Grubnyak", licensed under CCO

The World Economic Forum published a set of 10 guidelines for public procurement on Artificial Intelligence.

First off, why do we need procurement guidelines on AI? One of the key reasons is that AI advanced rapidly over recent years, offering many potential applications to the public sector, thus public authorities needs to create guiding frameworks on how to procure AI responsibly i.e. with public value at heart. Another key reason is that "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 decision-making and may inadvertently create new risks or harms." (WEF)

Once AI has been identified as a potential solution to a problem, the 10 guidelines aim to assist governments to evaluate the use of AI before acquiring it. One of the new guidelines is 'Use procurement processes that focus not on prescribing a specific solution but rather on outlining problems and opportunities, and allow room for iteration.'

This is where innovation procurement and pre-market engagement can play a key role. Innovation procurement is an ideal approach for the adoption of new technologies such as AI as it supports SMEs, and start-ups in the growing, yet niche field of AI applications. Also, innovation procurement means to form partnerships for the joint development of solutions that are not yet commerically available - an ideal testing ground for AI-based products and services. For example, by going through an innovation procurement process public authorities can collaborate with the market to test the technology before procuring it.
ICLEI is working on a multitude of projects and initiatives, recognising the tremendous power of innovation procurement and market engagement such as InnoBrokers - Bringing public buyers and suppliers of innovation together. Learn more how to get involved here.

With AI on the rise, early adopters play a key role in setting procurement standards and shaping the discourse. To safeguard public benefit, it is vital for the public sector to get involved alongside industry.

This is part of a series exploring questions, impact and challenges of Artificial Intelligence for Public Procurement. Read the previous article on How AI will revolutionise Public Procurement.

Browse relevant resources here.

Read the full WEF guidelines here.