Can we govern advanced technologies before they govern us?
Members of the Government Technology and Services Coalition, which acquired the FITGov Summit in 2022, and guests from the public and private sectors at this year’s summit Wednesday in Tysons, Va., answered the question resoundingly: We can use and govern advanced technologies before they govern us. We can benefit from them. We can control the risk. But only if we do it together.
The refocused FITGov Summit’s mission is just that: to bring government the resources and information needed to govern advanced technology before it governs us. At the 15th annual summit, leaders from across government and industry delved into topics including implications of artificial intelligence on federal IT, the future of procurement, the role of centers of excellence, and more.
These conversations are certainly well-timed. With the release of ChatGPT in November 2022 and countless applications since, federal government and contract communities are experimenting with its capabilities to see how it can save time, save money, and improve products and services. Individuals’ widespread access to this powerful tool, with little policy or procedure to guide early use, heightens the question of governing technology. And the signs are everywhere.
In its 2023 Government Trends report, Deloitte highlighted paradigm shifts currently reshaping government. Accelerated technologies “rebuild connections between people, systems, and different government agencies.” The convergence of physical and digital realms allows government to anticipate problems and gain reliable insights into the future. Artificial intelligence is at the center of these and other paradigm shifts, or disruptions as Deloitte calls them.
Government is acting quickly to address these shifts. The Biden Administration launched new AI R&D initiatives on May 23 to inform a national AI strategy, along with a report focused on AI in education. The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently released its AI Risk Management Framework 1.0, and followed up with the launch of a Trustworthy and Responsible AI Resource Center.
The FITGov Summit 2023 keynote speaker, Department of Energy Chief Information Officer Ann Dunkin, set the direction for the day by highlighting how innovation and IT modernization are about organizational culture. “IT modernization is 99 percent about changing culture,” she said. “Technology is the easy part.”
Dunkin described her experience changing culture through communication and collaboration. Learning. Inclusion. Serving the customer. And taking informed risks, together.
Panels elaborated on these ideas throughout the day:
- Think about who’s at the table. We can’t do procurement just through the procurement shop. We can’t do IT just through the IT shop. Cross-functional collaboration and collaboration among chiefs were also emphasized.
- Risks are part of every procurement. Every contract. Discuss them. Discuss ways to manage them, early on, within government and between government and contractors. Avoiding risk is often the fastest way to an undesirable outcome.
- Shift acquisition planning to the left and start conversations earlier. What are we trying to accomplish? Get program and other experts talking to each other, early. Address security concerns early in the process with those subject matter experts at the table.
- Culture change is top-down and bottom-up. From the top, strategy becomes the “permission structure” for people to implement change. From the bottom, people need to be safe to test and talk about what they’re trying. To be supported in figuring out what works and what doesn’t, to keep moving customer service forward.
- Government must use AI – including generative AI – to improve services to citizens and to catch up with and pass bad actors already using it. Governance can set the guardrails for safe and appropriate use without slowing down innovation.
- Use centers of excellence to gather experts, to help people figure out what to do and how to fix things that don’t go right. Don’t make centers of excellence bureaucratic and regulatory.
Former Department of Homeland Security Chief Procurement Officer and FITGov Board Member Soraya Correa summed it up this way: “It’s all about the conversation. Relationships matter. Teamwork matters.” And GTSC CEO Kristina Tanasichuk emphasized, “We’ve been saying this for years and it’s true today more than ever.”
Each panel detailed ways to promote innovation, communication, and collaboration within government and between government and the contractor community. While subsequent articles here at HSToday taking readers in-depth at the FITGov Summit will highlight those points, the main message was clear: Tough problems are more complex than ever. Innovative solutions are more difficult than ever.
If the people who work on them aren’t on the same page, advanced and emerging technologies can govern them. If they’re on the same page, together they’ll deploy those technologies in service of their mission, for the American people.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the FITGov Summit 2023 here at HSToday