Statements have shown that AI is a challenge to which there is no single unified approach being taken by government departments.
eolas Magazine asked all 18 government departments the following three questions:
- Has your Department discussed the use of ChatGPT and/or other AI applications by officials?
- To what extent is your Department using ChatGPT or other artificial intelligence (AI) applications to conduct business?
- What is your Department’s rationale for the use of ChatGPT and/or other AI applications by officials?
“The Department’s use of AI is grounded in its Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) Interim Policy. It is exploring the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence, as well as associated risks, and the various policy considerations that arise.”
Department of Defence
“In line with the National AI strategy and the NCSC’s Cyber Security Guidance on Generative AI for Public Sector Bodies, the Department of Defence continues to keep the use of artificial intelligence for business purposes under review.
“The Department of Defence is not using ChatGPT to conduct business. More broadly the Department’s core IT infrastructure is provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) under the Build to Share Managed Desktop shared service.”
Department of Justice
“Department staff do not currently use ChatGPT or other GenAI tools for official business. However, the Department of Justice plans to assess the opportunities presented by AI tools to improve the delivery of services to our customers. This will be done in line with the National Intelligence Strategy for Ireland, AI – Here for good. As with all new technologies, its adoption will be subject to approval by the Department’s governance processes.
“The NCSC issued useful guidance to all government departments in June of this year 2023 in relation to the use of Generative AI. At this time, [the] Department solely uses a pilot rules-based chatbot which provides FAQ type responses on the immigration services website.”
Department of Education
“In accordance with AI – Here for Good, the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy for Ireland, the Department of Education is investigating the potential for AI to assist in improving the delivery of customer services.
“A pilot project on the potential for using AI technologies to analyse large volumes of publicly available information and support better customer service will commence shortly.
“A pilot project to examine if AI technologies can support departmental staff in responding to customer queries is scheduled to begin in the coming months. The pilot project will focus on the potential for using AI technologies to analyse large volumes of publicly available information.”
Department of Finance
1) “Cybersecurity Guidance from the NCSC in relation to Generative AI issued to Government departments, including my department, during the year. A National AI Strategy, AI – Here for Good, prepared by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment was also published in 2021. The NCSC guidance referred to recommends that new technology should only be adopted based on a clearly defined business need following an appropriate risk assessment. I understand that the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment have established a working group on AI in public services. This group are currently drafting principles concerning the use of AI in public services, which the two departments expect to publish shortly. Guidelines on the use of generative AI will also be produced in the near future. Officials from my Department do not currently have access to the application in question to conduct official business.”
2) “I can confirm to the Deputy [Ciarán Cannon TD] that cybersecurity guidance from the NCSC in relation to Generative AI was issued to government departments, including my department, during the year. A National AI Strategy, AI – Here for Good, prepared by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment was also published in 2021. The NCSC guidance referred to recommends that new technology should only be adopted based on a clearly defined business need following an appropriate risk assessment. For operational and security reasons, my department has previously been advised by the NCSC not to disclose details of systems and processes which could in any way compromise departmental security. In particular, it is not considered appropriate to disclose information which might assist criminals to identify potential vulnerabilities in departmental cybersecurity arrangements, this includes any particular arrangements in place in relation to total spend on cybersecurity measures, cyber security tools and services. My department does not comment on operational security matters.”
eolas Magazine received no response from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
“The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) is currently in the process of upgrading its suite of standard office productivity tools to the latest version of these applications, which are based on the Microsoft 365 platform. This platform also includes additional business intelligence, app development, and app connectivity software applications that we will avail of to develop line of business solutions for the Department.
“The underlying technology for this platform includes services that are labelled as artificial intelligence. DCEDIY does not generate any content using artificial intelligence and does not use artificial intelligence for decision making. DCEDIY is also guided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on ICT policy and security matters.
“AI is part of a suite of digital technologies that will play a major role in shaping global competitiveness and productivity over the coming decades. Ireland is well-placed to be at the forefront of that change. However, AI adoption is not without risks.
“The Department recognises that, increasingly, some forms of AI have been built into standard digital products and services; however, the Department is not directly employing the use of AI to carry out its functions.
“For security reasons, the NCSC does not provide details of the tools and infrastructure it avails of.”
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
eolas Magazine received no response from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Department of Health
“The Department of Health does not currently use Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Department will continue to follow best practice advice from the Government’s A National Artificial Intelligence Strategy for Ireland, the NCSC’s Cyber Security Guidance on Generative AI for Public Sector Bodies, and through regular engagement with other departments/public service bodies in relation to the use of artificial intelligence.”
Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science
“In accordance with AI – Here for Good, the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy for Ireland, my Department’s ICT service, which is provided by the Department of Education on a shared services basis, has investigated the potential for AI to assist in improving the delivery of customer services. A proof of concept to examine if AI technologies could support staff in responding to customer queries has been completed. The proof of concept focused on the potential for using AI technologies to analyse large volumes of publicly available information. An external service provider assisted with this at no cost to the Exchequer. Officials will continue to review and follow guidance issued by the NCSC on the use of artificial intelligence for the future.”
Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
“The Department does not use artificial intelligence (AI) to conduct business. As with all new technologies, my department is assessing the potential of AI in the delivery of services, in line with the NCSC guidance on its usage in the public service and works closely with the NCSC which encompasses the State’s national/governmental Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT-IE).”
Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform
“Officials from the Department do not currently use the application in question to conduct official business. The use of artificial intelligence (AI), as with all enabling technologies, will be considered on a solution-by-solution basis. Any such considerations will be discussed, and a risk assessment conducted as appropriate. The Department has issued guidance to all staff reminding them of their responsibilities in using any applications or technologies available on the Internet which are not specifically provisioned for use by staff in the Department.”
Department of Rural and Community Development
“The Department has as a once off this year trialled Artificial Intelligence to insert a voice-over into video content produced in-house. There is some evidence that voice-overs on video content helps to increase accessibility.
“It is important to emphasise that there are no plans to use AI regularly but management will continue to keep this position under review.”
Department of Social Protection
“The Department of Social Protection is developing a responsible use of Generative AI policy before allowing the use of AI applications by officials. In line with the development of a Generative AI policy, the Department is evaluating where generative AI can be of use by its officials and will conduct a limited evaluation of Generative AI by a small working group.
“The Department currently engages in very limited use of AI. We are currently using an AI chatbot on the MyGovID platform. This chatbot linked on MyGovID provides the customer with advice on how best to use the MyGovID service.”
Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications
“Given its wide application of to all sectors, high capacity for impact, growth and contribution to improving competitiveness, generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) is one of the technologies with the greatest potential for transformation in all areas of productive activity. GenAI also poses significant opportunities in addressing and overcoming pressing societal challenges and creating new value and possibilities for everyone. However, it must be used sensibly and with a degree of caution…
“With the increasing advances in Generative AI there is the potential for both risks and opportunities. As with the introduction of all new technologies and software into an organisation, appropriate precautionary measures should be taken to implement suitable safeguards to mitigate risks. The area of GenAI will continue to rapidly develop, and it will be necessary to continuously monitor and evaluate these developments to better understand changes to the risks and benefits of these tools.”
Department of the Taoiseach
“The National AI Strategy, and this cross-government engagement, will continue to inform departments’ future approach in seeking to leverage AI in relation to the work and functions of the Department. When developing any new systems, the Department assesses the risks and benefits of appropriate technologies, including AI, on a case-by-case basis. When implementing these technologies, advice is sought from all appropriate sources. Suitable policies and safeguards are then put in place.
“The Department of the Taoiseach has not previously and does not currently use artificial intelligence services.”
Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
“The Department is guided by the NCSC in respect of all matters related to the use or operation of artificial intelligence. Chatbots are not utilised to assist with departmental functions, all applications and platforms used or operated by the Department must be in line with relevant policies and be consistent with advice provided by the NCSC on such matters.”
Department of Transport
“As advised by the NCSC in their release Cyber Security Guidance on Generative AI for Public Sector Bodies published on 1 June 2023, staff in the Department of Transport are developing risk assessment frameworks and policy guidelines for colleagues to ensure that any use of AI tools is done in a safe and appropriate manner and on the basis of an accepted business case. Until this work is complete and in place, the Department has acted on the advice of the NCSC by restricting access to AI tools by default.”
“There are no Departmental functions being assisted by ChatGPT or other AI applications at this time.”