Looking Forward: The Future of Public Sector Emerging Technology in the UK

Julia Esgate Christmas
July 18, 2023

The UK has always been at the forefront of technological innovation. Within the digital age the UK has embraced advancements that have shaped the nation's economy, society, and governance. Today, as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) continue to transform industries worldwide, the UK public sector is on a mission to harness their potential and pave the way for a brighter future. In this blog post, we will explore key considerations for creating and delivering a strong AI strategy, balancing innovation and regulation, the potential of the metaverse model in government, and the role of technology roadmaps in achieving net-zero goals. 

Creating and delivering a strong AI strategy in your organisation

Predicting the success or failure of an AI strategy involves several crucial factors. Firstly, leadership commitment and buy-in are vital for ensuring the necessary resources and support are allocated to the strategy. Without top-level support, initiatives may lack funding, expertise, and clear objectives. Additionally, a successful AI strategy requires a strong data foundation. Availability, quality, and accessibility of data are critical for training AI models and making informed decisions. Organisations must invest in data governance, data infrastructure, and ensure data privacy and security. 

Collaboration and cross-functional teams play a crucial role in AI implementation. A diverse set of skills, including data scientists, domain experts, and policymakers, should be involved in the process to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities. Building partnerships with academia, industry, and other government agencies can also foster knowledge sharing, reduce duplication, and accelerate progress. 

Top-down vs. bottom-up: Getting fundamental components right before implementing emerging technologies

While it may be tempting for public sector organisations to dive straight into implementing emerging technologies, getting the fundamental components right is crucial for long-term success. A strong foundation includes robust digital infrastructure, reliable connectivity, and efficient data management systems. Organisations should invest in upskilling their workforce, ensuring digital literacy across all levels, and creating a culture that embraces innovation and experimentation. 

Moreover, a comprehensive understanding of ethical considerations is vital. AI systems must be transparent, accountable, and unbiased. Establishing guidelines and ethical frameworks for AI development and deployment helps mitigate potential risks, such as algorithmic bias, and ensures public trust in these technologies. Sue Bateman, Chief Data Officer at CDDO recently explained that there is live discussion in government about where it is safe to experiment with certain kinds of technologies and language models and to see what it can offer. However, she stated it was vital to “be careful” and “not to use it when handling personal or sensitive information”. 

AI race: Innovating at pace while ensuring appropriate standards and safeguards

Innovation and regulation must go hand in hand to strike a balance between technological advancement and societal well-being. Governments should establish clear guidelines, standards, and safeguards to ensure AI systems are developed and deployed responsibly. Collaboration between regulators, industry experts, and policymakers can help identify potential risks, develop standards, and update regulations to keep pace with advancements. 

Engaging in public dialogue and soliciting feedback from stakeholders is crucial for ensuring that AI technologies align with societal values and priorities. Regular monitoring, audits, and accountability mechanisms should be in place to assess the impact of AI systems and address any unintended consequences promptly. 

MetaGoc

MetaGov: Utilising the metaverse for research and city planning in Britain

The concept of the metaverse, an interconnected virtual reality space, holds great potential for transforming governance and public services. In Britain, utilising the metaverse model could enhance research and city planning by providing immersive and collaborative platforms. Stakeholders from various sectors, including academia, government, and citizens, could engage in virtual environments to co-create, simulate, and test ideas, leading to more inclusive and effective decision-making processes. 

While the metaverse model offers exciting possibilities, its implementation must undoubtably consider accessibility, inclusivity, and data privacy. Balancing the benefits and risks associated with virtual reality technologies is essential to ensure equitable participation and maintain public trust. 

Producing a technology roadmap to support net-zero strategy and financial incentivisation

To achieve net-zero goals, a technology roadmap that outlines the necessary steps, milestones, and targets is crucial. This roadmap should identify key technologies, such as renewable energy, smart grids, and energy-efficient systems, that can contribute to decarboniszation efforts. Collaboration between government, industry, and research institutions is vital to drive innovation, share best practices, and scale up technologies rapidly. 

Financial incentivisation plays a pivotal role in encouraging organisations to conduct research and development activities focused on net-zero initiatives. Governments can offer grants, tax credits, and funding schemes to support R&D efforts. By providing financial incentives, the government can foster innovation, accelerate the development of sustainable technologies, and facilitate the transition to a net-zero economy. 

The UK public sector's mission to unlock the power of emerging technology is a testament to the nation's commitment to innovation and progress. By creating and delivering a strong AI strategy, balancing innovation and regulation, exploring the potential of the metaverse model, and producing a technology roadmap to support net-zero goals, Britain is poised to harness the benefits of emerging technologies while ensuring societal well-being. With careful planning, collaboration, and a forward-thinking approach, the UK can lead the way in shaping a future that leverages technology for the betterment of its citizens and the world at large. 

Ready to learn more about the future of emerging technology? Join us at DigiGov Expo, where our dedicated GovTech theatre will cover AI, emerging technology and much more, with case studies from public sector leaders. Find out more and secure your pass here.