February 22, 2024

U.S. Digital Response to help governments create capacity and expand expertise in generative AI, with support from Google.org

As part of USDR’s newest focus area in gen AI, Google.org will provide $1 million in funding and pro bono technical support to create public-sector gen AI experiments and tools to help improve service delivery

U.S. Digital Response to help governments create capacity and expand expertise in generative AI, with support from Google.org

Oakland, CA (February 22, 2024) — U.S. Digital Response (USDR), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works alongside governments at all levels to ensure they have the capacity to meet the public's needs, today announced a new initiative focused on helping government agencies utilize generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) to help improve service delivery. With support from Google.org, including $1M in funding and pro bono technical support from Google employees via the Google.org Fellowship Program, USDR will develop gen AI use cases and prototypes for use in government. Through USDR, agencies will have a safe space for experimentation and be empowered to identify whether they should utilize gen AI or not, create solutions, and move forward on addressing pressing challenges in their communities.

To help lead the focus area, USDR is hiring a gen AI technologist-in-residence who will set the overall direction and define how USDR will help governments make the best use of gen AI. USDR’s approach will involve two primary efforts: technical assistance with state and local governments and tool prototyping. USDR will match Google.org Fellows to government partners for gen AI-based projects tailored to their community needs. The second effort will develop USDR’s prototype of a gen AI-powered language access for unemployment insurance tool, initially developed in Spanish with input from multiple government partners and Spanish speakers. The language access work has already been in development by Marcie Chin, unemployment insurance product lead at USDR, and Madel Leal, language access UX researcher at USDR, and moving forward the team will focus on scaling these translation tools to help UI offices streamline their services quickly and accurately. More information can be found at https://www.usdigitalresponse.org/services/public-sector-generative-ai.

“We’ve listened closely to the needs of governments, and know that generative AI is top of mind for the public sector. We’re thrilled to develop our latest focus area, and continue to be a capacity-building partner for governments,” Hillary Hartley, CEO of U.S. Digital Response, said. “Like any technology, AI is just a tool - it won't magically solve complex problems. But when used thoughtfully and transparently, AI can unlock new ways to improve service delivery, especially for communities at the margins. We’re creating a safe space for governments to test out their hypotheses and get started on their journey.”

Starting this spring, USDR will welcome a cohort of Google.org Fellows for six months. The Fellows, vetted for their skills in areas such as user research and design, AI/machine learning, and product management, will provide discovery, prototyping, and consultation of gen AI use cases with USDR state and local partners. USDR’s approach is technology- and product-agnostic, putting a focus on meeting partners where they are. 

“There is tremendous potential in harnessing the power of generative AI to help make government services more impactful and efficient, but like any big technology shift, understanding when and how to use it is paramount,” Jen Carter, Global Head of Technology at Google.org, said. “Through our support of  U.S. Digital Response we can help them offer the guidance and capacity for governments nationwide to leverage this opportunity. We cannot wait to roll up our sleeves and get to work.” 

This new focus area follows the White House’s Executive Order on the safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of artificial intelligence and the emphasis on attracting and retaining AI talent in to the Federal government. In the 2023 legislative session, at least 25 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia introduced artificial intelligence bills, and 15 states and Puerto Rico adopted resolutions or enacted legislation. According to a recent survey of mayors and city leaders by Bloomberg Philanthropies, 96% of mayors are interested in how their city can leverage gen AI, yet only two percent of surveyed cities are actively implementing gen AI.

"Tools like generative AI can accelerate improvements that address administrative burdens people face when trying to access public benefits. With the U.S. Digital Response partnership, Illinois Department of Employment Security was able to ingest the UI Spanish-English glossary into a new machine-learning-based website translation software. There is no question that generative AI will help public servants do their jobs better and faster but understanding when and where to use these tools correctly is a monumental task,” said Jennifer Phillips, Former Assistant Deputy Director, Service Delivery, IL Dept of Employment Security. “With a partner like U.S. Digital Response, the public sector can have a safe space to experiment and receive professional guidance during a time of unknowns. I’m thrilled with the work we’ve already done on other unemployment insurance projects, and looking forward to this next chapter.”

Its fourth anniversary on the horizon, USDR launched with a vision to assist local and state governments in responding rapidly to the critical needs of the public. Since its inception, USDR has partnered on over 400 engagements to help deliver technical solutions for our country’s most pressing problems. USDR’s projects with partners span from country-wide solutions to community-specific needs.

Interested governments can learn more and sign up for assistance building their capacity for gen AI at usdigitalresponse.org. USDR also invites experienced technologists interested in serving their community to see if working in government is right for them by signing up to volunteer

‍About U.S. Digital Response‍

U.S. Digital Response is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works alongside governments at all levels to ensure they have the capacity to support the critical needs of the public. Founded in 2020, USDR connects governments with technology, resources, and support, leaving them better equipped to deliver services and support to millions of people nationwide. To date, USDR has built a dedicated community of nearly 9,000 volunteers driven to serve in a time of need and has partnered with 400 government and nonprofit partners on more than 400 projects.

About Google.org

Google.org, Google’s philanthropy, brings the best of Google to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges combining funding, product donations and technical expertise to support underserved communities and provide opportunity for everyone. We engage nonprofits, social enterprises and civic entities who make a significant impact on the communities they serve, and whose work has the potential to produce scalable, meaningful change. 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

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