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Political and civic action needed to ensure good governance in the application of AI in public life, finds new report

Published on
13 Dec 2021
A new report from the Oxford Commission on AI and Good Governance (OxCAIGG), calls for collective action and greater public cooperation amongst policymakers and decision-makers responsible for AI in public services.

A new report from the Oxford Commission on AI & Good Governance (OxCAIGG), convened by the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford, calls for collective action and greater public cooperation to address and rectify some of the challenges facing policymakers and decision-makers responsible for the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in public services.

‘AI in the Public Service: From Principles to Practice’, sets out three clear recommendations aimed at helping public servants harness the benefits of AI. The report also sets out three short-term actions which policymakers and civil servants could implement now.

Strategic recommendations:

1. Creation of new independent standards bodies to advance collaboration between government, industry and civil society; (a) Establishing an international scientific body for advancing research on public service AI application (b) Creating a global arbitration body able to adjudicate disputes that might arise between stakeholders involved with public service AI systems.

2. Expand the technical and practical capacity of public servants responsible for the implementation of AI systems in public services; (a) Build the knowledge and understanding of public servants to be better engaged with design, procurement, implementation of public service AI systems (b) Provide toolkits for the staff of public agencies to do their supervisory work

3. Strengthen public trust in the use of AI through public education campaigns about everyday applications, their impacts, and their risks; (a) Ensuring governments openly disclose how AI technologies are being used in public services (b) introducing a multi-sector agency providing a basic certification system that continually validates applications and builds trust over time

Professor Phil Howard, Director of the Programme on Democracy and Technology, Oxford Internet Institute and OxCAIGG Commissioner said: “Artificial intelligence promises to solve some of the most pressing challenges of public policy and societal change.  Yet governments might not be ready to deploy it in a way that is genuinely beneficial for the public.  In this report, we set out actionable, evidence-based recommendations which we believe will enable governments and public servants to better harness the benefits of AI.”

The report also sets out next steps for immediate action by policymakers and public servants to help bring about long-term change.  These steps include:

  1. Prepare an organizational feasibility study to estimate the costs of organising the arbitral and scientific bodies
  2. Ensure effective consultation between global policymakers and decision-makers at existing national and multilateral agencies
  3. Hold inclusive conversations at international milestone events, servicing as a launch pad for long term lasting collaboration

The report ‘AI in Public Service: From Principles to Practice’ is the latest in a series of OxCAIGG reports exploring good governance in AI, offering practical recommendations for policymakers and government decision-makers which support the development of more standardized global governance of this emerging technology.  It is available in Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Japanese, French and Spanish.  OxCAIGG, convened by the OII, consists of academics, researchers, technology and legal experts, and was established to address and redress the challenges of good governance for the use of AI in public life.  Download the full report and find out more about the work of OxCAIGG and its commissioners.

Notes for editors:


The challenge of using AI for good governance and public service is an urgent concern in countries across the world. Launched in July 2020, the goal of the Oxford Commission on AI and Good Governance has been to develop principles and practical policy recommendations to ensure the democratic use of AI good governance. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a rapid influx of AI solutions. While intended for public good, these novel technologies bring with them challenges in assessing the suitability and legitimacy of these offerings. The rapidity of implementation of such systems is unprecedented and demonstrates the need for policies around these sorts of AI products, their procurement, and their implementation through governments. OxCAIGG investigated the procurement and implementation challenges surrounding the use of AI for good governance that are faced by democracies around the world, identified best practices for evaluating and managing risks and benefits, and recommended strategies in an effort to take full advantage of technological capacities while mitigating potential harms of AI-enabled public policy. Drawing from input from experts across a wide range of geographic regions and areas of expertise, including stakeholders from government, industry, and technical and civil society, OxCAIGG produced applicable and relevant recommendations for the use of AI for good governance. Our commissioners applied their experience and insight to contribute thoughtfully to OxCAIGG’s quest to equip and inform policymakers with guidance to ensure AI-related tools are adapted and adopted for good governance in the near future. The OxCAIGG commissioners are: Dr Yuichiro Anzai, Dr Rumman Chowdhury, Mr Tom Fletcher CMG, Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Professor Philip Howard, Sir Julian King, Professor Safiya Noble, Mr Howard Rosen CBE, Professor Weixing Shen, Baroness Joanna Shields OBE. Find out more. 

About the OII

The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) is a multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, dedicated to the social science of the Internet. Drawing from many different disciplines, the OII works to understand how individual and collective behaviour online shapes our social, economic and political world. Since its founding in 2001, research from the OII has had a significant impact on policy debate, formulation and implementation around the globe, as well as a secondary impact on people’s wellbeing, safety and understanding. Drawing on many different disciplines, the OII takes a combined approach to tackling society’s big questions, with the aim of positively shaping the development of the digital world for the public good.

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