AI Revolution In The Public Sector

Schoolchildren at computers thanks to an AI created lesson plan which was promoted as part of the AI revolution in the public sector

The evolution of AI has sped up drastically in the last 18 months.

Parallel to the rising interest of AI in private businesses, the AI revolution in the public sector has also been fast growing over the past few years.

In February of this year, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden announced £110m had been set aside to speed up the deployment of AI in the public sector. This funding ensures that AI will be transforming the public sector to improve productivity, save costs, and expand the delivery of public services to UK citizens.

An overview of AI and the public sector

The latest announcement in funding packages is not the first time we have heard about AI in the public sector. A government report in 2020 set out what an AI revolution in the public sector would look like, its advantages, and the necessary regulations needed to ensure that this move was upheld to the high standards and principles expected of the public sector. This led to plans in the AI national strategy in 2021 to improve government services and the NHS.

Like in the private sector, the AI revolution has stepped up in the past few years, Increasingly, the government has been looking into ways AI can be used to improve services. After the AI Safety Summit in October 2023, the UK government, along with other countries, announced plans to invest in AI research, safety and regulations.

In 2024, the government reported the ways they are supporting AI research and regulation in the UK, including plans for deploying AI technologies in the public sector. Evidently, it is clear that the AI revolution in the public sector is currently working at full speed with complete governmental support.

AI and the NHS

One of the main areas in the public sector that has seen significant investment and funding in AI is the NHS.

Back in 2018, the AI revolution was brought to the NHS with new centres using AI in pathology, imaging and radiology. Matt Hancock, Health Secretary at the time, announced that “…artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in the future of the NHS…”.

Since then, there has been an investment of a £21 million AI diagnostic fund for technologies in areas such as chest X-rays and CT scans to help diagnose patients quicker for conditions including cancers, strokes and heart conditions. Addenbrooke, a Cambridge NHS hospital and research centre have reported AI being used to reduce the time cancer patients wait to start radiotherapy, with specialists being able to plan treatments around 2.5x faster with the technology.

The NHS AI Lab was formed in August 2019 to bring together government, health providers, academics as well as tech professionals and companies in the name of health. As a result, they are currently spearheading 86 live AI projects in the NHS, as well as working to increase awareness, knowledge and trust of AI technologies across the health service and is the epicentre for AI regulations and guidelines in the NHS.

AI and local government

One of the latest strategies is the i.AI – the Incubator for Artificial Intelligence. This is a team of experts working with governmental departments to create pilot schemes and help support the deployment of AI throughout the sector. Originally only working on 10 pilot programmes, they have expanded their capacity to include new projects to deploy across the public sector.

Several AI solutions across government departments have been planned or funded for, such as:

  • AI in the police department to improve administrative tasks and save the police an estimated 750,000 hours per week
  • £34 million investment to detect fraud across government using AI (Civil Service World)
  • £17 million to the DWP to update their services using AI (Civil Service World)
  • £14 million to support public sector research and innovation of infrastructure to develop more health and security technologies. (FT Adviser)
  • A chatbot to help improve user experience on the gov.uk website

In short, the UK government is investing fully into AI as part of its efforts to improve governmental services without increasing governmental costs significantly.

AI and schools

The AI revolution in the public sector is not just limited to governmental services and the NHS, the government have implemented investments in education too.

The main focus of AI in education is to free up time for teachers and improve student support. One way this is being accomplished is through investments in “Oak National Academy”, an online learning platform powered by AI which creates free resources for teachers in ready-made lesson plans and classroom quizzes. Consequently, this will work to help teachers cut down on certain administrative tasks and lessen a teacher’s workload outside of class.

There are also plans to explore how AI could be used to monitor pupils’ wellbeing. This could include flagging absences or lowering school grades. Whilst there have been some concerns about using AI technology to deal with young people; there was recently a report published in in TIME  focusing on the use of suicide risk detection AI technology in American schools. However, we will likely still see further introduction of AI within schools in the future.

Additionally, AI’s applications spread far beyond tools for teachers and schools in support students. AI will soon be a focus in IT classes in its own right. The BCS, the chartered institute for IT, has argued that AI skills should be taught in schools. This plan is to help lessen the acute skills gap many businesses experience and ensure our future workforce has the right technical skills to compete in a global workplace. They have proposed a digital literacy qualification, which emphasises AI and modern digital skills. Furthermore, the chartered institute also proposes that understanding AI should be a part of teacher training and leadership skills within education.

Overall

In conclusion, the AI revolution in the public is ongoing. The NHS has already implemented AI within a number of programmes in the past few years, with great success and plans for more pilot programmes. We also see a similar level of enthusiasm across the public sector in both education and local government, with new programmes and funding being given to multiple departments across the public sector.

 

If you are a tech professional in the AI space and are looking to work for companies that have strong public service values, you might like to consider working in the public sector. The public sector has some great benefits for tech professionals and are increasing their AI capabilities.

Additionally, at VIQU, we are a public sector IT recruitment specialist, and have been appointed as a crown service supplier on the RM6277 framework. If you are in the public sector and are seeking a skilled IT professional, get in touch with our team here.

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