Government commits to using trustworthy AI in the Public Service

9th January, 2024

Government has today (9th January 2024) approved guidance on the use of AI in the Public Service, brought to Cabinet by Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney TD. 

In the wake of agreement on a new European AI Act reached between the European Parliament and the Council, the Government has instructed that all AI tools used by the Irish Public Service should comply with seven requirements for ethical AI that have been developed by the European Commission’s High Level Expert Group on AI in their ‘Ethical Guidelines for Trustworthy AI’ document. 

The seven requirements for Ethical AI, as set out in these Guidelines, fall under the headings of:

  • Human agency and oversight
  • Technical Robustness and safety
  • Privacy and data governance
  • Transparency
  • Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness
  • Societal and environmental well-being
  • Accountability 

Interim Guidelines for Use of AI have also been developed by a cross-Department Working Group on Trustworthy AI in the Public Service. This document sets out interim guidelines and issues for consideration for Public Service organisations when considering the use of AI tools. It outlines Government’s commitment to the ethical use AI. It also encourages risk assessments be carried out and outlines the safeguards and considerations that are relevant when exploring the use of AI tools.  

Other Government supports available to Public Service organisations include a direct drawdown procurement framework for robotic process automation (RPA), funding support for AI projects (including via the recently launched Public Service Innovation Fund), as well as learning and development interventions for public servants at no cost to public service bodies. 

Speaking about the guidance, Minister Donohoe said:

“AI presents significant opportunities to improve the delivery of public services and to assist in tackling many of the complex challenges we face. Our Government and Public Service must not shy away from the opportunities presented by AI because of the potential risks involved. 

“The guidance issued today and the supports we have in place and future supports we are developing, will help Public Servants avail of those opportunities in a way that is ethical and maintains trust. AI is changing our world significantly and it is important we face that change directly and adapt quickly as required to both protect and deliver for the people we serve.” 

Minister Coveney said:

“The potential productivity gains of AI technologies for our public service bodies are immense. These guidelines will support public service bodies in preparing for the forthcoming EU AI Act, which will be the first ever comprehensive legal framework for AI, providing guardrails to ensure that the rights of the individual are protected and supporting responsible innovation.”