Procurement as AI Governance

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Ethical issues surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) take on an added salience when courts, administrative agencies, and other governmental bodies use AI. But governments often must rely on private contractors to help build their AI systems, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity related to AI governance. In defending themselves against public criticism or lawsuits, government officials need to put forward adequate information about the design and operation of their algorithms, but they can be hampered in what they can disclose because they often rely on private contractors who claim trade secret protection over their work. The solution to that challenge lies in the procurement process: governments need to plan ahead when contracting for AI-related products and services to ensure that contractors will be bound to make information available for oversight. This solution also points to an opportunity for procurement to serve as a form of AI “soft law” governance by promoting compliance with ethical norms. When procurement standards call for transparency and ethical AI, not only will companies that provide products and services to governments need to adapt to these AI-related procurement standards but their actions could also inspire a broader diffusion of best practices throughout the industry.


Administrative Law, Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence (AI), bias, due process, governmental decision making, machine learning, procuremnet law, public procurement, soft law, standards, transparency

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IEEE Transactions on Technology and Society