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New AI Video Tutorial Focuses on Public-Sector Needs

InnovateUS, a training ground for public agency professionals, has released a free, interactive video centered around the use of generative AI. The video aims to fill a need for AI education among government officials.

Public-sector professionals can hardly go more than a day or two, it seems, without reading about artificial intelligence, or hearing about how peers use AI, or receiving an AI sales pitch from a government technology supplier.

But how many of them really know what AI is, and what it means for their jobs?

A new 13-minute video tutorial scheduled to launch Thursday, May 11 is designed specifically for the public sector. The video is part of a larger educational effort meant to boost knowledge of perhaps the hottest and most vital technology trend since the rise of the Internet.

InnovateUS, a training organization for public servants, is releasing the video for free in hopes of shattering stereotypes about AI and sparking conversations around the tech, according to Beth Simone Noveck, director of the GovLab and the Burnes Center for Social Change and Innovation at Northeastern University, which houses InnovateUS.

Noveck, who also works as New Jersey’s chief innovation officer, told Government Technology that with all the AI information out there, there exists scant content focused on what it means for the public sector.

“We are overdue to have that conversation,” she said.

The rise of ChatGPT and other forms of generative AI among state and local agencies boosts her point. Generative AI, which can create text, video and other forms of content, has gained a foothold in the public sector for community relations, press releases, police reports, budgeting and a variety of other tasks.

The new video focuses on teaching such generative AI tools as Bard, Bing and ChatGPT.

The video includes several specific interactive examples, such as writing a memo about a tax on plastic bags, to help public-sector professionals get familiar and comfortable with AI. Narration for the video comes from “synthetic media,” another AI tool, with the presenter an avatar based on a real person, according to InnovateUS.

“As with all new technologies, the most important thing public leaders can do is gain hands-on experience in order to know firsthand how to balance the benefits against any risks,” Noveck said.

Even as AI becomes mainstream — and part of seemingly every other business pitch from tech providers in the public sector and private industry — longstanding views of AI persist. Pop culture has trained many people to view AI as the end of humanity, for instance — and recent warnings from AI experts in the real world have reinforced some of those fears.

At the very least, private- and public-sector professionals worry AI will take their jobs.

“So much of the journalism [around AI] is doom and gloom,” Noveck said, which in turn is shaping and even twisting conversations about AI among government officials.

As she sees it, the video will serve as a launching pad for further InnovateUS efforts to advance the discussion about AI in the public sector. The experiences people have with this video and the feedback they offer will shape similar projects, Noveck said.

“For us, this is a jumping-off point,” she said.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.