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Feds set rules on use of AI in government services amid wider testing

Employment and Social Development Canada Chief Data Officer Sandy Kyriakatos poses for a photo in Gatineau, Quebec on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. The federal government is setting the ground rules for how departments and agencies can use artificial intelligence to make decisions about benefits and services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — The federal government is setting ground rules for how departments and agencies can use artificial intelligence to make decisions about benefits and services.

Talking at a conference of government workers Monday morning, Treasury Board President Jane Philpott says anyone who thinks the era of artificial intelligence is just on the horizon is mistaken.

She says departments are already looking into ways to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate tasks and finding ways to use the technology for long-term projects like preserving and teaching Indigenous languages.

In setting new rules, Philpott says departments will have to be able to explain why a decision was made on a particular file, beyond saying it was up to a computer.

The potential to improve federal services is limitless, but also poses ethical and accountability challenges for the government, Philpott says.

Human beings won’t be eliminated from the process entirely, Philpott says, and will make sure decisions spewed out by a machine are fair, consistent and just.

 

The Canadian Press