Deputy prime minister heads up AI central government drive

The government has begun a recruitment drive to hire top-tier engineers as it builds out i.AI, the plan run by the deputy prime minister to develop artificial intelligence (AI) in government.

According to information posted on the website, i.AI is a new initiative that aims to work across government to identify where targeted applications of AI can make the most radical improvements to existing services and the lives of people who use them.

The website states that i.AI will be used as a central position to work across the public sector: “Bringing world-class skills and expertise to bear on areas of government that would not otherwise have the means to seize the opportunity presented by advancements in AI.”

The team at i.AI is being set up to build what the government sees as “world-leading data sharing and AI infrastructure” for use across government. This infrastructure will be used to enable public sector organisations to make use of AI.

To get this started, among the first priorities for i.AI is the delivery of a safe, secure, shared data infrastructure for the government. On the website, i.AI stated that this would eliminate the need for individual service areas to build their own, often resulting in disjointed services, additional cost and greater risk.

The team is also being tasked with developing and offering shared AI infrastructure for testing and development purposes. “This will foster efficiency and collaboration among government agencies and allow us to evaluate the efficacy of AI solutions being deployed right across government,” i.AI said.

The team has recognised that current AI efforts in government are impeded by duplication, lack of infrastructure and issues with scalability, which i.AI said causes delivery blockers or outright failure, adding: “Our new team will deliver GenAI as a service, for the whole of government.”

The government plans to use the team at i.AI to upskill thousands of existing civil servants in areas such as programming, engineering, data science and machine learning.

In a report in the Financial Times, deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden said he plans to form a task force of 30 “high-end, technically capable” experts in AI and data engineering, with an annual budget of about £5m, to begin the process of transforming public services. According to the FT report, Dowden believes AI is the “closest thing you have to a silver bullet in terms of driving efficiency for the taxpayer”.

The new team is being positioned as engineers that will act as entrepreneurs in residence, proactively identifying opportunities to transform service provision. They will also offer expertise for procurement and assurance of government AI projects.

At the time of writing, the website lists four principal engineers in cloud platforms, data, AI and applied AI. Salaries of each position range from £64,70 to £149,850.

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