Will Artificial Intelligence help improve public sector productivity?

by | Mar 6, 2024 | Other business, Tax, Technical

The Chancellor highlighted the fact that the UK’s AI economy is three times the size of Germany’s and twice the size of France’s, which is important considering the broadly held expectation that this will be the largest growth industry globally over the next decade.

The Chancellor acknowledged recent work by the National Audit Office, which highlighted that the government could deliver “tens of billions” of pounds worth of savings by increasing efficiencies among its public services. Spring Budget 2024 saw the government committed to investing in improving NHS productivity:

  • £2.5 billion was allocated for day-to-day NHS operations in 2024-25, along with an additional £3.4 billion for reform initiatives. This funding aims to reduce administrative burdens on doctors, freeing up 13 million hours for patient care.
  • Piloting AI solutions for automating tasks like notes, summaries, and letters which intends to unlock £500-850 million in annual productivity gains. The Budget notes outline pilots undertaken in Chelsea and Westminster hospitals, which have successfully implemented AI software.
  • Upgrading MRI scanners with AI to reduce scan times by 35%, benefiting 130,000 patients annually.

This transformation for efficiencies extended to other Public Services. £800 million is dedicated to productivity initiatives across various departments, including:

  • Police: £230 million for pilots testing technologies like facial recognition, automated call triage, and drones to free up officers for frontline duties.
  • Justice System: £170 million for modernization efforts, including online support for families in the Family Courts, rehabilitative programs in prisons, and digital solutions in courts.
  • Planning Authorities: Piloting AI-powered streamlining of local development plans, potentially reducing completion times from 7 years to 30 months.

Beyond public services the government outlined the benefits of AI among Small and Medium Enterprises (“SMEs”) and promised to help develop and research AI for the private sector:

  • £7.4 million will be allocated to the “upskilling fund” pilot that will help SMEs develop AI skills to improve their day to day operations.
  • £100 million will be invested into the UK’s national institute for AI and data science, the Alan Turing Institute.

All of this mention of AI did not come without a reminder of the need for caution, with the notes to the Budget emphasising the progress made by the UK’s AI Safety Institute (AISI) in completing evaluations on frontier AI models.

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