Govt exploring the use of artificial intelligence tool to assist civil servants

Confidential and highly sensitive information to be handled by civil servants.

Sulaiman Daud | March 12, 2023, 09:17 PM

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The government is exploring how large language models, such as those underlying ChatGPT, can help civil servants do their job more effectively, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary.

He added that this was part of the effort to utilise technology and encourage innovation and productivity in the public sector.

Puthucheary was responding on Feb. 28 to a Parliamentary Question filed by PAP Member of Parliament Yip Hon Weng on the use of ChatGPT by civil servants in writing reports, and ways in which the government ensures accuracies of the ChatGPT assisted reports and speeches.

Pair to assist civil servants in writing

In responding to Yip’s question, Puthucheary shared that one such effort was the development of Pair.

The system will help civil servants with parts of the writing process, such as summarising long reference materials, exploring related ideas and improving clarity in writing.

Pair is still being developed, Janil shared, and the government will pilot it with a number of agencies and carefully evaluate the results before determining how best to roll it out to the broader civil service.

Highly confidential and sensitive information still written by civil servants

The government has also struck an agreement with Azure Open AI, for government information to remain confidential.

In addition to the technical safeguards, Janil assured the House that work containing highly confidential or sensitive information will still be exclusively written by civil servants.

“As suggested by the naming Pair, the intent is for it to serve as an assistive tool that civil servants can leverage to improve their productivity rather than entirely automating the writing process,” he said.

Civil servants using the tool are still directly responsible for making policy decisions, as well as crafting, refining and customising the content of the documents to ensure that they are relevant, accurate and appropriate, he added.

“The government is committed to ensuring that we are well positioned to benefit from innovation, such as ChatGPT while managing the associated risks,” he said.

Still in early stages

In a follow-up question, Yip asked if affected civil servants be redeployed to other portfolios, or take on other forms of work.

In response, Puthucheary said that the experience in other parts of government in the use of productivity tools has not resulted in redeployment of personnel so much as redevelopment of job roles and tasks that officers are engaged in.

The effects of this tool remains to be seen, as it is still early days.

You can watch his reply here.

Top images via MCI/YouTube and Rolf van Root on Unsplash