Published on March 22, 2024, 8:36 pm

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The California Government Operations Agency recently unveiled procurement guidelines and a toolkit aimed at assisting state agencies in evaluating software incorporating generative artificial intelligence. Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order from 2023, these guidelines emphasize the importance of recognizing the necessity for generative AI within departments, communicating with employees or teams who will utilize the technology as part of their roles before making procurement requests.

Created by California’s Office of Data and Innovation, the toolkit complements the guidelines by aiding government bodies in comprehending generative AI, which has the capability to produce text, video, or images in response to prompts. The set of guidelines and toolkit aims to encourage state agencies to consider both the potential benefits and risks associated with this technology while equipping employees with essential knowledge on its proper application.

Jeffery Marino, director of the state data office, views these procurement guidelines as tools rather than strict rules, emphasizing a human-centered design approach that welcomes innovation and collaboration. Departments are required to assess the risks and benefits of integrating generative AI tools, ensuring they undergo testing for biases and accuracy. Moreover, each agency must establish a dedicated team to oversee how the technology is implemented and submit reports to the California Department of Technology.

While Marino’s office and the Department of Technology will support in reviewing applications and monitoring testing procedures, the final decision regarding the purchase of generative AI technology rests with each agency. Jared Johnson, California’s deputy chief information officer involved in developing these guidelines, highlighted California’s position as a leader in utilizing generative AI within state governance while hinting at additional applications across various sectors such as transportation design optimization, enhancing public safety measures, streamlining call center operations, broadening language accessibility in public services, and expediting healthcare evaluations.

Distinguishing between incidental purchases where generative AI is integrated into other products versus intentional acquisitions aimed at meeting specific operational needs is crucial under these procurement guidelines. Johnson envisions generative AI as a revolutionary force poised to significantly impact various processes within state government operations. The implementation date for these guidelines is expected to be July 1st; until then, departments are urged to leverage them for risk assessments while preparing themselves for future procurements.

In an effort towards fostering understanding among state leaders regarding these guidelines and creating an informed environment for their application, Johnson proposed an engagement strategy alongside a digital repository envisioned as an essential resource hub summarizing key aspects covered by the toolkit for convenient access by stakeholders.

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