Adopting AI is vital for continuity of civil service, says Deputy PM 


Pressure on the public sector to embrace AI must be “constant and relentless”, he said Deputy PM Oliver Dowden

The UK government has announced that it will test AI systems to increase efficiency and productivity within the civil service. 

Roles that the AI systems could assume include administrative work, analysing responses to government consultations, and drafting preliminary responses to parliamentary inquiries. 

The number of civil servants has skyrocketed in recent years, increasing by over 100,000 since 2016, reaching 519,780 last year. During the same period, the number of employees earning a six-figure salary has also doubled. 

Therefore, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has ordered public services to cut spending to pay for tax cuts, and is expected to signal reductions in income tax or national insurance in next week’s Spring Budget. 

As such, AI is seen as a key technology in making the bureaucracy of government more efficient and reducing staffing costs. 

“It really is the only way, I think, if we want to get on a sustainable path to headcount reduction,” said Dowden speaking to the Telegraph. 

“Remember how much the size of the Civil Service has grown as a result of the pandemic and, and EU exit preparedness. We need to really embrace this stuff to drive the numbers down,” he continued. 

Dowden also cited a recently published report from think tank IPPR which concluded the government could save around £24 billion by increasing AI adoption, which Dowden confirmed is “the sort of target we should be aiming for”. 

Similar AI trials were also announced with the NHS, covering many fields such as diagnostics and prescription tailoring, which if given the go-ahead, will save hundreds of millions of pounds.  

The Deputy PM stressed that pressure on the public sector to adopt AI must be “constant and relentless”, adding “we can’t have the private sector adopting it at pace, and then us being laggards”. 

To aid in this AI transition, the ‘i.AI’ – the team of scientists, engineers, and experts commissioned last year by the government to work with various public sector departments in the adoption of AI – will be doubled in number, reaching 70 personnel.  

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