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Condusiv: Government IT Managers Face Tricky Decisions
To technology directors and CIOs in government agencies being asked to do more with less, artificial intelligence may appear to offer major cost savings. However, a new study indicates that AI tools may create more problems than they solve.

"Information technology managers throughout the economy," says James D'Arezzo, CEO of Condusiv Technologies, "are being asked to increase departmental productivity while holding flat-or in many cases reducing-the organization's overall IT budget." D'Arezzo, whose company is the world leader in I/O reduction solutions for virtual and physical server environments, adds, "This is particularly true in the government sector, where IT directors are being mandated by the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act to reduce their budgets by as much as 25% in the current fiscal year."

Under these circumstances, and particularly given the repetitive nature of many governmental functions, more and more IT managers are turning to the application of artificial intelligence tools to tasks currently performed by government employees. If a piece of technology can reduce staff workload or walk citizens through a routine process or form, so the thinking goes, it could enable management to effectively multiply the output of a workforce without having to add new people-a clear cost/performance benefit.

Artificial intelligence, however, notes D'Arezzo, is a technology that, if not quite in its infancy, is still new and uncertain enough that rather than improving a process, it may actually make it more convoluted and less effective. A recent white paper from the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, in fact, finds that AI could reasonably be expected to be helpful to government in only a handful of areas-resource allocation, large data sets, expert shortages, predictable scenarios, and procedural and diverse data. The author of the study, Hila Mehr, notes that most of these are big-data applications in which sophisticated algorithms, i.e. artificial intelligence tools, are already routinely employed.

In more complex applications, says Mehr, particularly those that involve governmental interactions with the citizenry, the performance record of AI tools is at best mixed. A 2016 report by ProPublica, for example, found that an algorithmic system for criminal sentencing was biased against black people-not by understanding the color of an individual defendant's skin, but by using flawed data correlated with race. More recently, in the Houston, Texas Independent School System, where teachers' job performance is evaluated by an algorithm, a circuit court has found that the software violates the teachers' 14th amendment right to due process.

Meanwhile, the very companies fostering the development of artificial intelligence are struggling with some of the unintended consequences of its application. Both Facebook and Google, whose algorithms are given autonomy over what users see on their respective sites, are entrenched in public battles over misinformation and propaganda gaming their systems.

A key lesson to be learned from all this, suggests D'Arezzo, is that government IT managers should be wary of turning to AI as a solution to their budget problems. "There is no question that government IT directors need to find ways of ramping up performance while controlling costs. There is also no question that software, properly selected and applied, is a highly effective way to do this."

D'Arezzo explains, however, there exists a proven software solution that can significantly enhance overall system performance without exposing users to the multiple unknowns in today's AI programs. Condusiv has seen users of their software solutions more than double the I/O capability of storage and servers in the current configuration, whether real or virtual. As the world leaders in this area, Condusiv strongly encourages IT managers to look to I/O reduction technology as a safe, reasonably priced, and effective solution to departmental productivity problems.

Published Monday, January 29, 2018 7:44 AM by David Marshall
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