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Rhode Island Creates AI Task Force, Data Centers

With an executive order Thursday, Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee called for creation of an Artificial Intelligence Task Force and centers of excellence for AI and data. Goals include operational efficiencies and improved service delivery.

Illustrations in blue and white feature human sillhouettes holding hands with white human sillhouettes that say "Ai"
A new executive order (EO) from Rhode Island’s governor significantly deepens the state’s work in AI, data-driven decision-making, and technology training.

Executive Order 24-06, which Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee signed Thursday, establishes an Artificial Intelligence Task Force; a Center of Excellence for AI and Data, under the leadership of the Department of Administration (DOA); and a Data Center of Excellence within the state’s Division of Enterprise Technology Strategy and Services (ETSS).

The order establishes these new bodies to help the McKee administration understand how AI can help create operational efficiencies and improve service delivery, as well as support the technology’s expansion in the private sector. The EO helps ensure that these implementations are done responsibly.

“When it comes to technology, data security and individual privacy continue to be our top priorities,” said Chief Digital Officer and Chief Information Officer Brian Tardiff in the announcement.

Former Congressman Jim Langevin, who has also been tapped to lead Rhode Island College’s new Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies, will chair the new task force. The task force will be responsible for assessing both risks and opportunities related to AI and advising state policymakers in this space. Both public- and private-sector experts will serve as members.

Task forces to address the AI question have been established in other states, including Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin — and such task forces even exist at the federal and local levels.

The Center of Excellence for AI and Data is tasked with the creation of a state code of ethics for AI. Tardiff said in the announcement that making this the first order of business helps ensure a human-centric focus for AI adoption. The center will also be tasked with predicting future AI-related trends.

The Data Center of Excellence will promote enhanced data management and help support the work of state leaders to collaborate on data analysis and data-driven decision-making. The EO creates a chief data officer position within ETSS. The person hired for this role will be appointed by the state director of administration to oversee the Data Center of Excellence and will report to Tardiff. The CDO will be responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the Data Center of Excellence, to promote inter-governmental collaboration of data activities under the direction of the state data governance structure that focuses on developing strategies and recommendations to improve.

The EO further calls for the creation of a statewide data platform to help make data more accessible. It will leverage best practices from existing data systems, including the Data Ecosystem at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the Rhode Island Longitudinal Data System at the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (OPC).

“Having better data and data infrastructure will also put government in a better position to evaluate how AI can most benefit state workers and the public, and it’s important that we take a measured, responsible approach to both data infrastructure development and AI,” DOA Director Jonathan Womer said of the relationship between AI and data in the announcement.

The order, which took effect immediately, called on the state departments of Labor and Training, Education, and OPC to collaborate in offering training and education on AI tools for state workers and students.