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Agencies Want to ‘Demystify’ Generative AI to See Greater Adoption

Managing concerns over generative AI capabilities requires sharing best practices and use cases for workflows.

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Government agencies are both embracing and cautiously experimenting with generative AI in their workflows, according to defense and civilian officials speaking at the 2024 ServiceNow Federal Forum in National Harbor, Maryland, last week.

Alexis Bonnell, CIO at Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and director of the lab’s Digital Capabilities Directorate, said she thinks of generative AI as “augmented intelligence” rather than artificial intelligence, designed to “supplement and to complement our human knowledge base.”

Bonnell said that agencies need to think of what type of applications, data and knowledge they want to develop by using generative AI before making the decision to apply it in their workflows. She said that generative AI allows government to work with “unstructured” information that it normally would pass over because it was less controlled, while avoiding putting more of a burden on employees to process the information.

While Bonnell said that generative AI doesn’t require “new morality” and ethics to be implemented, Office of Personnel Management CTO Catherine Manfre said that leaders need to be “equipped with the right decision-making frameworks and enough of an understanding about the power of this technology that they can also ask the right questions and make the strategic decisions necessary about how they’re they want to prioritize the different use cases that they’re rolling out.”

United States Patent and Trademark Office Senior Strategic IT Operations Advisor John Lau emphasized that generative AI applications should focus on how the technology affects the people who use it and who it is being used for.

“It’s important to focus back onto the people in the mission and demystify AI. Gen AI is not there to replace people. It’s not there to replace jobs,” Lau said. “We want the people to showcase what they’ve discovered from using these things, what’s worked for them, what’s helped them. Ultimately, gen AI is going to transform how business is being done, and employees and people have a big, big say in how they do it.”

Department of Homeland Security CTO David Larrimore emphasized that shifting the culture around generative AI is paramount to ensuring its smooth adoption.

Larrimore said that generative AI needs to be explored in relationships between supervisors and employees, communication and trainings for the technology and providing awareness about the technology’s capabilities.

“The biggest threat is not addressing the cultural impact of generative AI and making sure that you’re being supportive of your employees and finding a path for them to be safe with the technology, even if they’re not ready to use it yet,” Larrimore said.

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