In a recent article on the GovCyberHub, we discussed the foundational requirements for modernizing agencies’ information governance practices that were featured in a panel discussion held by the Digital Government Institute (DGI), with IT experts from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other government organizations.
They answered questions such as why agencies need to manage data and information, how agencies should talk about data governance and information governance, and what the roles of modern data and information governance are.
There are many aspects to information governance, and one potential modernization asset some government agencies may not realize is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI has been a widespread topic in recent years as technology continues to advance. The technology has grown to have a stigma of fear surrounding it because of the lack of knowledge and understanding of what AI’s capabilities actually are.
So what is creating this widespread fear of AI? How does AI actually work? And is AI something that agencies should look into as an asset for information governance modernization tactics?
To answer these questions—, Ray Davis, Information Management Subject Matter Expert at BAE Systems and Software, sat down with the DGI to explain AI’s capabilities, dive deeper into the stigma of it all, and explain how AI can be beneficial for government agencies in their modernization of information governance efforts.
What makes AI work?
When doing a quick Google search on AI, headlines about the technology taking over future jobs, the need to regulate it quickly, and the benefits of AI all swarm the public eye causing widespread misconceptions and speculations about what AI is and what it is capable of.
AI has been around since the 1950s and has made massive technological strides in the capabilities it has today. Chat GPT, DeepAi, and SteveAi are all examples of different types of AI engines that are capable of answering questions , writing stories, generating images, and animating videos. Contrary to popular belief, though these are all AI engines, they all have specific functions and capabilities.
So what makes AI work? How does it learn its specific function? Looking at ChatGPT as an example, this was created from an algorithm where IT experts and scientists spent years developing, updating, and training the AI chatbot by pouring information into it to function the way it does today.
According to Davis, “Sometimes people think that AI is the same way that it comes out of the box with all this intelligence and information already in it, and it’s just ready to go. That’s not true. AI needs to be trained and what makes AI work even better, is the volume of information that it has within it.”
Agencies need to understand that if AI engines are given a small amount of data to work with, there are not as many results that it can generate. AI has the ability to generate recommendations for issues the agency might be having, analyze information, and come up with a more efficient course of action for agencies with the information that is poured into it.
So, for agencies to get the most out of using an AI engine, they need to train it by inputting the information it needs to function efficiently and hold massive benefits for that agency.
Information Pessimist VS. Information Optimist
Some may be concerned about trusting AI to hold their sensitive data and how that leap in trust will not have a massive downfall. This is where being an information optimist vs. an information pessimist comes into play for agencies. What is the difference between the two and why is it important to be an information optimist not just when incorporating AI, but for modernizing information governance as a whole?
According to Davis, an information pessimist has the attitude of approaching information in a negative way and views information as a liability, as they are only focused on the costs, risks, and regulatory compliance of the information given.. While looking at compliance is important, it’s equally important to have an optimistic approach to information and view it as an asset for the agency.
Before electronic records were available, having an information pessimist mindset was essential, because there were more things to worry about such as managing physical records where there needed to be folders and boxes created to obtain and transport everything around the agency. There were many challenges that agencies had to be concerned about when it came to privacy, security, and access to all of those records.
In today’s tech age, there are electronic records that have eliminated these issues. “The information optimist knows that [they] need to hold onto more information for a longer period of time. In the past, it was always about following the [information] lifecycle, and at the point of destruction, letting it go. Being an optimist allows them to realize the value of information. Information becomes a valuable currency,” said Davis.
If agencies look at the retention of their information from an optimistic approach by incorporating AI, they will realize that holding onto information longer is essential. “Thinking about the optimistic approach and retaining information longer, allows us to feed that AI engine and give it more information to do its analysis in order to come back with recommendations. It may be worth it for [agencies] to look at retaining their information longer,” said Davis.
How AI can help agencies modernize information governance
As previously mentioned, though artificial intelligence is a hot topic with fear surrounding it, AI has a multitude of benefits for agencies when it comes to modernizing information governance. According to Davis, “AI can generate benefits for public sector [agencies] in three ways; smarter policymaking, reimagined service delivery, and more efficient operations. [AI specialists] also go on to say that the technology can help governments better meet the needs of their citizens while making better use of taxpayer dollars.”
Incorporating artificial intelligence into information governance practices enables agencies to have improved efficiency. If agencies put their information and analysis in the hands of technology, they will have more efficient outcomes because technology can analyze that information at a faster and more accurate rate then humans can. This boosts data quality in the long run, which has a greater chance of success with agencies who modernize their information governance practices and procedures.
However, for an AI engine to do its job efficiently, it needs to be trained. The more data that agencies put into the AI engine, the better outcomes it will have. “It will be good information, quality returns, and there’s better opportunity for pattern recognition so that when the decisions come back, [agencies] can make those smart decisions going forward,” said Davis.
Information governance is something that every agency needs to be successful, and if they incorporate AI into those efforts with the frame of mind that AI is beneficial and not something to fear, they can have a better chance of being more efficient in the long run. However, AI cannot work without information governance. So, if agencies have not implemented information governance, AI will be useless.
“Information governance expertise is crucial in artificial intelligence success. Information governance has information experts, and information drives AI” said Davis.