Government issues guidelines on best AI procurement

Public sector IT teams developing AI systems in-house should refer to the Guide when planning use of Artificial Intelligence, says government

Posted 9 October 2019 by Gary Flood

A new set of Draft Guidelines for AI procurement are now available on GOV.UK.

“These new procurement Guidelines will help inform and empower buyers in the public sector, helping them to evaluate suppliers, then confidently and responsibly procure AI technologies for the benefit of citizens,” claims HMG.

Guidelines to be continuously updated as UK public sector use of AI evolves so as to incorporate “new learnings and best practices”

They also follow the highest standards as set in the government’s own Data Ethics Framework, which outlines principles to guide the design of appropriate data use in the public sector. 

The core principles outlined are:

  • Explore procurement processes that focus on the challenge rather than a specific solution
  • Define the public benefit of using AI while assessing risks
  • Include your procurement within a strategy for AI adoption
  • Incorporate references to legislation and codes of practice in the invitation to tender
  • Articulate the technical feasibility and governance considerations of obtaining relevant data
  • Develop a strategy to address technical and ethical limitations of using training data
  • Conduct procurement with diverse multidisciplinary teams
  • Focus on mechanisms of accountability and transparency throughout procurement and
  • Create a level and fair playing field for suppliers.
  • Consider the life-cycle management of the AI system.

Carefully being framed as “a living document intended to encourage feedback from practitioners,” their use is being piloted this Autumn, says the government.

Drawn up in collaboration with Whitehall’s own Office for AI and the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the idea is that the Guidelines will be continuously updated as UK public sector use of AI evolves so as to incorporate “new learnings and best practices”. 

Teams developing AI systems in-house should refer to theGuide to using Artificial Intelligence in the UK public sector, while all technology projects and programmes should follow the Technology Code of Practice, it recommends.

Innovative procurement approaches have the potential to foster innovation, create competitive markets for AI systems and uphold public trust in public sector adoption of AI, the Guidance adds.