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Survey: Potential benefits of artificial intelligence outweigh citizen concerns

Photo Courtesy of 123rf.com | © abidal

Citizens are willing to try new artificial intelligence (AI) tools for government services despite their concerns about government use of the technology, according to results of an Accenture multi-country survey. The survey of more than 6,000 citizens from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore, France and Germany found that more than half (54 percent) of citizens said they are willing to use AI services delivered by government, with even more expressing willingness when presented with the potential benefits derived from AI.

For instance, 74 percent of respondents said they would be willing to use AI if it would increase pension or retirement income (such as by improving their personal investment strategy and/or pension scheme), and 66 percent said they would use a chatbot if it would guarantee faster processing of a tax refund or social service benefits.

At the same time, however, the findings highlight citizens’ concerns about the use of AI by governments, with 66 percent of respondents indicating a lack of confidence in government’s ethical and responsible use of AI. Specifically, only 34 percent said they’re “confident/very confident” that government would be ethical and responsible in its use of AI; 29 percent said they are “not at all confident” in government using AI ethically and responsibly; and 37 percent said they are neutral on the point.

The survey also determined that regardless of where they lived, citizens have concerns about the use of AI in government, including in areas of job security and personal data security. For instance, 42 percent said they think AI takes jobs away from people, and only 17 percent believe that AI can better protect their personal information and reduce their chances of getting hacked.

The survey found that one of the biggest communications challenges for government officials implementing AI projects is explaining AI’s benefits to citizens. For instance, 32 percent of all survey respondents reported not understanding AI’s potential benefits well enough to judge whether government should use the technology.

“Citizens are willing to embrace AI-driven solutions that improve the delivery of government services, but they want to be sure that government is taking a leading role in ensuring the safe and ethical use of AI,” says Carl Ward, who leads AI programs for Accenture’s Health & Public Service practice. “These findings should be a wake-up call for government leaders to prioritize effective communications regarding the benefits of AI-related technology in delivering government services that are secure, smart and fast – while also promoting its proper and ethical use.”

The survey findings also highlight differences between citizens who work in the public sector and other citizens regarding their views on AI and government, with public-sector respondents being more positive overall. For instance, public-sector respondents were more likely than other respondents to say they are willing to use AI services delivered by government (63 percent vs. 51 percent) and more likely to say they are confident or very confident that government would use AI in an ethical and responsible manner (46 percent vs. 31 percent). At the same time, public-sector respondents were less likely to say they don’t understand AI’s potential benefits well enough to judge whether government should use the technology (26 percent vs. 33 percent).

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