Education & Government
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Jill Holtz
Content Strategy Manager

Unleashing the power of AI for local government and public education

October 26, 2023
0 min read
AI for local government and public education

Imagine a world where mission-driven organizations such as local governments, schools and community colleges operate with unprecedented efficiency, thanks to the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

In a recent Diligent panel discussion, industry experts gathered to explore how AI, particularly language models, can be harnessed to drive positive change and innovation in these sectors.

The insightful discussion delved into the transformative impact of AI, with practical applications and strategies tailored for the public sector.

Meet our expert panelists

Nonie Dalton, moderator: A seasoned expert in product management and innovative tech solutions, Nonie currently serves as Vice President of Product Management at Diligent.

Ari Ioannides: A distinguished board member at Park City Institute and the founder of BoardDocs, a Diligent brand, Ari provided unique perspectives on integrating AI into both nonprofit and educational sectors, supported by practical insights from his own experience.

Richard Barber: As CEO and board director for Mind Tech Group, Richard shared his expertise as an AI Governance and Growth Strategy Consultant on the strategic implementation of AI solutions in diverse community-based initiatives.

Dominique Shelton Leipzig: A partner at Meyer Brown, Dominique provided legal perspectives and insights into the ethical and regulatory considerations surrounding AI applications in the public sector.

5 key insights from the discussion

1. Transformative applications of AI

Our panelists highlighted the transformative potential of AI in local government, schools, and nonprofits. Schools can leverage AI for personalized learning experiences, government organizations can create policies and other types of documents quickly, and nonprofits can optimize fundraising efforts through AI-driven data analytics.

The panelists referenced several examples of AI in action, such as:

  • Providing summaries of long-form documents
  • Writing a press release
  • Writing a resolution
  • Drafting emails/newsletters
  • General content generation
  • Creating curriculum and lesson plans
  • Marking tests
  • Drafting policies
  • Drafting grant proposals
  • Grant reporting
  • Creating plans for events
  • Writing messages for stakeholders
  • Translating texts for multilingual constituents

Nonie observed, “When we look at the public sector, AI is really being viewed as a key element or driving efficiency and helping organizations do more with the resources that they have, while providing better services and achieving their missions.”

2. Risk considerations

Managing risks with AI was a key point of discussion. Richard pointed out that, while organizations may think the CIO is solely responsible for monitoring and managing AI risk, the board is also accountable and needs to be on top of those risks.

Dominique recommended ranking the use cases of AI in terms of risk: low, medium and high. An example of low risk could be using AI to tell stakeholders a school is closed due to a thunderstorm, while high risk would be anything involving sensitive data or children.

She suggested four actions for boards to take when it comes to AI and risk:

  1. Boards need to have a technical briefing based on the use cases the organization is considering.
  2. Boards must ask: “Do we have any use cases that are in a ‘prohibitive’ bucket at all?"
  3. Boards must also ask: “Are any of our use cases high-risk? What is our [AI] governance and mitigation strategy?"
  4. Boards must discuss these questions at both the board and operational level.
3. Legal and regulatory frameworks

Dominique also provided insights into the legal and regulatory landscape surrounding AI. She advised organizations to stay informed about evolving regulations and to implement responsible AI practices to mitigate legal risks.

She recommended, “All the draft legislation is there. Getting where the government is going will help your organization. Start to prepare now, as it’s coming.”

4. Best practices for implementing AI

Ari shared his experiences in implementing AI solutions. He emphasized the importance of maintaining oversight when implementing AI in organizations. He noted, “Think of AI as a junior assistant. You would never let someone only two years out of college loose on your organization without oversight.”

While AI is very good at calculation and prediction, it is not good at judgment. Dominique added, “Judgment is key. The governance team needs to have a process in place and a policy for how to use AI.” She recommends having technical controls to test, monitor, correct and audit your organization’s use of AI.

Nonie agreed: “It’s about understanding the use cases in your organization, and how you are going to have that oversight.”

“Think of AI as a junior assistant. You would never let someone only two years out of college loose on your organization without oversight.” - Ari Ioannides, founder of BoardDocs and board member at Park City Institute
5. Policy and governance for AI

The panel also highlighted the importance of having policy and governance in place in their organization.

Nonie asked the panel to give their advice around policy and governance. What should organizations and their boards be doing today to make good policy around AI?

Ari recommended making sure there are processes in place for checking the output of the work, and if needed run it through legal or HR departments.

Dominique advised that the whole governance team needs to have a system in place, with processes and policies that tell everybody in the organization the same rules, because they might individually be using AI to help augment things. “You want to make sure that there's a policy in place and there is a procedure for how to treat these tools because it's not intuitive.”

Richard added, “If your board or leadership does not have an AI framework in place, they should. This should include strategy as well as policies. Get some training, get some help. Take a look at the NIST framework. It has a 7-page playbook with an AI framework you can use as a starting point.”

Practical advice for mission-driven organizations leveraging AI

To harness the power of AI effectively, organizations in the public education and local government sectors can:

  • Invest in AI literacy: Encourage staff to enhance their understanding of AI's basics and potential applications.
  • Collaborate for success: Foster collaboration between the staff members who use AI, and the stakeholders who use the outputs. Collective efforts amplify the impact of AI initiatives, creating holistic solutions.
  • Stay ethically informed: Stay abreast of evolving ethical considerations. Regularly update policies and practices to align with ethical standards, ensuring responsible AI use.
  • Embrace and explore: From language processing to predictive analytics, explore how AI applications can address specific challenges. Start small and test and learn.
  • Transparent communication: Maintain transparent communication with the community regarding AI implementations, ensuring public awareness and trust.
  • Regular ethical audits: Periodically audit AI algorithms for biases, ensuring ethical practices in decision-making processes.
  • Policy advocacy: Advocate for policies that promote responsible AI use, collaborating with policymakers and legal experts.
  • Collaborate for legal guidance: Partner with legal experts to effectively navigate the complex landscape of AI regulations.
  • Prioritize data security: Implement robust data security measures to safeguard sensitive information.
  • Stay informed and adaptive: Continually engage with AI advancements and industry best practices to make informed decisions and drive positive change.

Embracing responsible AI practices

The power of AI is no longer confined to the realm of science fiction. It's a tangible force for transformation in local government and school districts. By understanding the ethical, legal and practical aspects of AI, governing boards can examine how their organization can better harness its potential for the benefit of their communities.

As your organization explores AI initiatives, it’s important to have a strong framework in place. By embracing AI thoughtfully and responsibly, mission-driven organizations can begin to unlock its full potential to drive positive change.

A public board playbook for digital governance

AI is just one of the digital technologies completely transforming governance for public boards of nonprofits and mission-driven organizations.

A Diligent guide gives public boards in education and government a definitive playbook for navigating governance in the digital era — including how to leverage new tools like GAI to enhance board operations and make smarter, faster decisions; and how to incorporate digital communication tools to connect with digital-native communities, all while staying on the right side of tightening data security regulations.

Download the digital governance playbook here.


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