AI4Gov call for projects: a lesson in tech procurement

Implementing AI to improve public services sounds enticing, but where exactly does an administration even begin?

As governments become more digital, public servants will be called to regularly identify, procure & integrate new tech. Luxembourg’s call for AI projects helps its ministries kickstart the adoption of AI solutions. More importantly, it gives public servants the firsthand experience needed to master the process of procuring advanced technology – a skillset that will only become more critical with time.

In November 2019, the Department of Media, Telecommunications & Digital Policy (SMC), along with the Ministry for Digitalisation, & the Information & Press Service launched a call for public projects. Ministries were invited to submit ideas for AI-based initiatives that would help them optimize or expand their services.

“The goal here was to give public servants hands-on experience in the procurement & implementation of AI based technology.”

Max Gindt: policy advisor department of media, telecommunications & digital policy

The call drew a total of 14 projects from seven different administrations. An external selection committee of experts selected six winning ideas that were feasible & widely beneficial. Each chosen team receives funds to kickstart its project along with guidance on how to move forward through the procurement process, design & service provider selection. Once the projects start, regular meetings bring together project owners to share their insights & lessons learned, gradually building a community around AI.

Over the course of six to nine months, the selected service provider & the administration will work side by side to develop their project. At the end of that period, a completed proof of concept & mock-up will help determine if the project should move forward. This learning experience brings lasting value to Luxembourg’s public administration.

How does this initiative strengthen Luxembourg?

The goal here was to give public servants hands-on experience in the procurement & implementation of AI based technology. This has the potential to reduce the cost of procurement for IT services, because if you know what you want & what you can get, then you’ll always end up with something more efficient. AI-based technologies can get pretty complicated. We want to create expertise inside the team & focus on the administration as an innovator.

What surprised you most about this call for AI projects?

I was surprised by the number of good, mature ideas that were waiting & ready to go within the administrations. They had clearly already done a lot of thinking about how they could use AI technology to better serve their clients. It was just a matter of taking that next step.

Can you give us an example of one of the projects?

Yes, the Luxembourg National Library (BNL) wants to leverage AI technology to make documents more accessible to researchers. There are currently massive amounts of info available but it’s labor intensive to unlock. We have a big research community here in Luxembourg, so this would be immensely helpful to them.

What’s most exciting about this initiative?

The technology is of course exciting, but the more interesting thing is being able to work with agile teams from other administrations that I didn’t know about yet. We can get into group discussions with people coming from completely different communities inside the state. That kind of cooperation benefits everyone.

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