New federal directive looks to increase automated decision making in government

artificial intelligence

The Canadian government has announced the launch of the Directive on Automated Decision Making, a mandate which aims to guide how AI can assist with administrative decisions in government.

The Directive came out of discussions in Ottawa with public servants and industry figures around the efforts, opportunities, and challenges to deliver AI intelligence solutions for the Canadian government.

“Artificial intelligence gives government an invaluable opportunity to improve services to Canadians.”

The announcement was made by MP for Markham-Stouffville and then-Treasury Board president and Minister of Digital Government, Jane Philpott (just hours before she abruptly resigned from cabinet, citing “serious concerns” over the Trudeau government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair).

“Artificial intelligence gives government an invaluable opportunity to improve services to the Canadians we serve,” Philpott said. “Canada’s leadership in the field of artificial intelligence and our burgeoning AI industry are creating a powerful partnership to improve digital government for the betterment of all.”

Over the last two years, the Government of Canada has made successive investments in the Canadian AI ecosystem, allocating $125 million toward the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy and $950 million for the Superclusters initiative, which is generating new research, investment, and talent in Canada.

The new directive has established a framework that will involve engagement with academia, industries, and other governments, and use AI in a manner that is compatible with core administrative law principles such as transparency and accountability. Canada is also looking to tap into AI talent through a new procurement process, which has resulted in a list of pre-qualified suppliers of AI expertise, who were evaluated in part on their ability to implement AI solutions responsibly and ethically.

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The Government of Canada website provides a draft detailing how projects associated with the new directive can implement an automated decision system. Through five progressions – initiation, analysis, design, deployment, and evaluation – the government aims to ensure that automated decision systems are deployed in a way that reduces risk, and leads to more efficient, accurate, consistent, and interpretable decisions.

“Our government is investing strategically in Canadian artificial intelligence and is leading a streamlined and outcomes-based procurement process for the acquisition of AI solutions,” said Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility. “The new list of pre-qualified suppliers for artificial intelligence technologies is a prime example of how we are using an agile procurement approach to provide the right tools to federal organizations, all while aiming to improve services for Canadians.”

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast