Emerging Tech

Study: Federal AI is a $1B market

AI government 

Federal agency chief data officers are key in channeling a rising wave of artificial intelligence-driven data and applications in the federal government, according to an industry-backed study on the technology.

Agencies, according to a study on federal AI adoption released by the Professional Services Council Foundation on May 22, have mostly passed from the experimentation phase to wider implementation.

The study's authors said federal agencies will commit over $1 billion to AI technologies by the end of fiscal 2019. The Defense Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and NASA lead that spending.

"AI isn't optional" for federal agencies any longer, as the technology opens up cost savings and manpower efficiencies, PSC Executive Vice President and Counsel Alan Chvotkin said.

Researchers interviewed over a dozen senior technology and IT officials at agencies such as the Department of Treasury, the U.S. Postal Service, HHS, the National Institutes of Health and others about their AI implementations.

They found commonalities in how agencies consider AI implementation. They primarily look to AI to take over routine, data-oriented tasks; augment employees' access to data across diverse databases and systems; assist in prioritizing work by showing which tasks would yield the maximum benefit; and help keep track of the ever-rising stream of incoming data.

All those applications involve handling, steering or combining massive amounts of data throughout an agency.

"Agencies struggle with who owns the data," PSC President and CEO David Berteau said. AI encourages agencies to share data to produce maximum efficiencies. Ownership of that data can be a sticking point for agencies that tend to silo their own sets of data and are reluctant to share, he said.

"Agencies that have a chief data officer have moved out a little farther" with AI implementation, according to Dominic Delmolino, managing director and CTO at Accenture Federal Services, which underwrote the study with the PSC Foundation. The CDO can determine what data is shareable to give it the maximum impact across agency operations.

Some agencies remain wary of AI, in part because of questions about whether their specific environments are ready for the technology, the study found.

According to Chvotkin, even though the AI genie appears to be out of the bottle for government implementation, agencies have to ensure they've laid the groundwork before moving ahead.

That foundation includes developing a business case that lays out how the technology will return its investment, building AI competency in the workforce and setting ethical boundaries. One of the most important things agencies can do to maximize the effects of AI, according to Chvotkin and the study, is to build an internal "analytics culture" with leadership that embraces the technology, employees who develop new skills and a commitment to open communication about the changes and challenges in adopting AI.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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