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What’s Next for AI in States? An AI Sandbox

With policies and guardrails in development around the country on responsible use of generative AI, Massachusetts and Georgia are creating environments where agencies can safely find real-world uses for the emerging tech.

Massachusetts CIO Jason Snyder
Government Technology/David Kidd
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As generative AI has gained ground as a tool for governments, states have worked to stand up policies that outline how the new technology can be used responsibly. With those guardrails in place, many are now turning to finding concrete use cases that will help government operate, and serve residents, more efficiently.

To do that, some states are building environments where agencies can get their hands dirty with GenAI, so to speak. At the NASCIO Midyear Conference this week, CIO Jason Snyder described a sandbox in Massachusetts where a group of students from Boston’s Northeastern University are using their training with AI to work on projects improving paratransit services on the T public transit line as well as projects for MassHealth, the state’s health-care program for low-income residents.

But Snyder also sees great potential for GenAI to help the state workforce with tasks like summarizing meetings.

“I think AI really provides the tremendous ability to make everybody do their jobs better,” he said.

Like Massachusetts, Georgia is working on its own sandbox environment for AI, an innovation lab where agencies can start experimenting with the new technologies available to them.

“We think that if we get this done, we’re helping the state get quick wins on minor issues that could help constituents and also making sure that we’re wrapping our hands around the use of AI and making sure that we’re doing it responsibly,” said Georgia CIO Shawnzia Thomas.

The state’s Chief Digital and AI Officer Nikhil Deshpande explained that the innovation lab is intended as a place “for agencies to purely experiment” and that “we want them to fail fast if need be.” Part of the way Georgia is accelerating the development process is by bringing in a group of pre-approved AI vendors to offer solutions to the business problems agencies present. This will expedite the often cumbersome procurement process and hopefully allow Georgia to scale up GenAI solutions more quickly.

Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including <i>Government Technology</i>, <i>Governing</i>, <i>Industry Insider, Emergency Management</i> and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history.