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What’s Next in AI for State and Local Governments?

Governments of all sizes are now on the front line of working with an emerging technology faster than ever before. But when it comes to generative AI, what are you really working with?

city at night overlaid with digital images and connections
Shutterstock/Golden Dayz
The year is flying by and we will soon be thinking back on what happened. What did we see in 2023?

People found their way back into gathering together. Governments found new ways to deliver much-needed services to meet their constituents' needs. Technology made a seismic shift especially in the world of artificial intelligence. All of this happened while you still had to keep the lights on and the doors open … in other words, while doing more than ever before.

We want to focus on that huge shift in the world of AI. We all thought we had a good handle on what AI represented for government: It was a cool tool that would have limited uses. Well, we were wrong.

2023 became the year when AI took on a new persona and its uses became more prevalent. The advent of generative AI took the world by storm while shifting the perception of technology. Governments of all sizes are now on the front line of working with an emerging technology faster than ever before. But what are you really working with?

As we move around the country at our Government Technology* events, sessions on AI have permeated our agendas. The content consists of best practices, practical uses, ethical uses and how AI can help transform government. The one area that gets lost is the differences between consumer-based generative AI and enterprise AI solutions.

The recent boom of generative AI has mainly been on the "consumer side," where individuals are using the tools to answer tough questions or do research in the blink of an eye. Many believe these uses are groundbreaking, and in many ways they are. But now reality is setting in, and governments across the nation are working to define how they can use generative AI in the future — securely and ethically, but with the most benefit.

It is important that we also focus on what we're calling enterprise AI. There are any number of enterprise AI solutions that have been developed, tested and implemented to help governments. These may already be built into your existing infrastructure, in chatbots and cybersecurity tools to name a few. The value is that they complement the functional systems you have in place. This opens up a new world of embedded AI solutions, AI-in-the-cloud solutions and AI-enhanced features in many of the software solutions you already have or are thinking of buying. This is not to say that the implementations are simple, and you will receive immediate benefit, but they are not the incredibly difficult implementations that many have experienced when trying to use a standalone new technology. And the same issues of ethics, privacy and transparency exist along with the need to ensure a fit with your current technology architecture. You will need to rely even more on your partners as you make this journey.

There is one last aspect of this topic that we would like to explore: the use of startup companies to help move your efforts forward. Governments have been reluctant to use startups in the past as they tend to not all be sustainable or able to last in robust technology markets. The time has come to give startups a chance while entering into agreements that give you the flexibility you need to exit if necessary. Startups are the companies that are taking big risks to flesh out the AI market and to complement the large enterprise players that are building robust AI platforms. The mixture of startups and trusted tech partners may be a recipe for success in the world of AI.

We at the Center for Digital Government have been working on the topic of AI for quite some time and have developed a library of materials, along with webinars to help you grasp what you need to know. You can find these tools at GovTech Snapshot: Generative AI Market Briefing and GovTech's artificial intelligence topic page. Enjoy what we can provide, ask us for help if needed, and get on the ride to making AI something you can use longer term.

*Note: Government Technology and the Center for Digital Government are both a part of e.Republic.