State Department Wants Generative AI Outside Its Network, for Now
Generative AI has been met with general enthusiasm at the State Department, though the sentiment is not universal, said Deputy CIO Laura Williams.
“I’m really excited about it from a knowledge management perspective,” she said. “Imagine if you could lay that on top of our diplomatic reporting trove.”
AI could potentially predict the next foreign conflict or economic crisis and provide data that officials could use to respond, Williams added.
Williams said she doesn’t see the State Department starting with generative AI inside its network until an AI policy is firmly in place. But the technology could improve customer experience by using public-facing data to answer questions from people around the world about how to obtain a visa or from citizens trying to report the birth of a child abroad, she said.
How Agencies Can Create a Responsible AI Policy
The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development spearheaded discussion about responsible AI, and many of its guiding principles have been adopted by agencies and incorporated into the Biden administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights.
Williams spent a year standing up the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, which launched in April 2022, and said there are lingering concerns around ensuring AI works for citizens, grows economies and isn’t used for “nefarious,” undemocratic ends such as surveillance.
Until the department addresses those policy details, it’s unlikely generative AI will be allowed inside its network.
“Industry and government have to come together to say, ‘What is AI?’” Williams said. “How are we going to apply these principles of fair use, and how are we going to ensure that bias isn’t baked into the methodologies?”