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How State Governments Can Protect and Win with Big Data, AI and Privacy

I was recently asked to conduct a 2-hour workshop for the State of California Senior Legislators on the topic of “Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Privacy.” Honored by the privilege of offering my perspective on these critical topics, I shared with my home-state legislators how significant opportunities await the state. I reviewed the once-in-a-generation opportunities awaiting the great State of California (“the State”), where decision makers could vastly improve their constituents’ quality of life, while creating new sources of value and economic growth.

Industrial Revolution Learnings

We have historical experiences and references to revisit in discerning what the government can do to nurture our “Analytics Revolution.” Notably, the Industrial Revolution, holds many lessons regarding the consequences of late and/or confusing government involvement and guidance (see Figure 1).

How State Governments Can Protect and Win with Big Data, AI and Privacy

Figure 1: Lessons from the Industrial Revolution

Government’s role in the “Analytics Revolution” is clear: to carefully nurture and support industry, university, and government collaboration to encourage sustainable growth and prepare for massive changes and opportunities. The government can’t afford to stand by and let the markets decide. By the time the markets have decided, it may be too late to redirect and guide resources, especially given the interests of Russia and China in this all-important science.

Be Prepared to Action on the Nefarious

Access to sensitive information, data protection, privacy – these are all hot button issues with the citizenry. The State must be aware of the society and cultural risks associated with the idea of a “Big Brother” shadowing its people. The State must champion legislation in cooperation with industry in order to protect the masses, while not stifling creativity and innovation. That’s a tough job, but the natural conflict between “nurturing while protecting” is why the government needs to be involved early. Through early engagement, the State can then reduce concern between industrial growth and personal privacy.

The “Analytics Revolution” holds tremendous promise for the future of industry and personal achieve, but will require well-defined rules of conduct and engagement. Unsupervised growth or use may lead to information being exploited in nefarious ways with potentially damaging results.

The State must protect its constituents’ sensitive information while nurturing the industrial opportunity. That’s a tall order, but nothing less should be expected from our government, industry and society leaders.

Can’t Operate in a World of Fear

We can’t be afraid of what we don’t know. The State must increase constituents’ awareness and education of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence; what they are, what they are used for and the opportunities locked within including “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

We can’t operate in a world of fear; jump to conclusions based upon little or no information, or worse yet, misinformation or purposeful lies. Government leaders must collaborate with industry and universities to actively gain understanding of the true ramifications and capabilities of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, before they create legislation (see Figure 2).

How State Governments Can Protect and Win with Big Data, AI and Privacy

Figure 2: Government Leaders Must Seek Information before Jumping to Conclusions

It’s because I’m an educator in this field that I was so honored to be part of this discussion. In addition to discussing the economic opportunities that lie within Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, I wanted to help our legislators understand they should prioritize their own learning and education of these sciences before enacting rules and regulations.

Predict to Prevent

The opportunities for good are almost overwhelming at the government level! Whether in education, public services, traffic, fraud, crime, wild fires, public safety or population health, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence can dramatically improve outcomes while reducing costs and risks (see Figure 3).

How State Governments Can Protect and Win with Big Data, AI and Privacy

Figure 3: Big Data and AI Reducing Crop Loss to Diseases

However, to take advantage of the potential of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, The State, its agencies, and its legislators need to undergo a mind shift. They need to evolve beyond “using data and analytics to monitor agency outcomes” to understanding how to “leverage data and analytics to Predict, to Prescribe and to Prevent!”  That is, these organizations need to evolve from a mindset of reporting what happened to a mindset of predicting what’s likely to happen and prescribing corrective or preventative actions or behaviors (see Figure 4).

How State Governments Can Protect and Win with Big Data, AI and Privacy

Figure 4: The “Predict to Prescribe to Prevent” Value Chain

There are numerous use cases of this “predict to prevent” value chain that will not only benefit state agencies’ operations, but also have positive and quality of life ramifications to the residents of California including the opportunity to prevent:

  • Hospital acquired infections
  • Crime
  • Traffic Jams / vehicle accidents
  • Major road maintenance
  • Cyber attacks
  • Wild fires
  • Equipment maintenance and failures
  • Electricity and utility outages
  • And more…

Role of Government

The role of government is to nurture, not necessarily to create, especially in California. California is blessed with a bounty of human capital resources including an outstanding higher education system and an active culture of corporate investing such as the Google $1B AI Fund (see “Google Commits $1 Billion In Grants To Train U.S. Workers For High-…”).

There is a bounty of free and low-cost Big Data and Artificial Intelligence training available. For example, Andrew Ng, one of the world’s best-known artificial-intelligence experts, is launching an online effort to create millions more AI experts across a range of industries. Ng, an early pioneer in online learning, hopes his new deep-learning course on Coursera will train people to use the most powerful idea to have emerged in AI in recent years.

California sits in rarified air when it comes to the volume of natural talent in the Big Data and Artificial Intelligence spaces. The State should seize on these assets, coordinate all of these valuable resources and ensure that this quality and depth of training is available to all.

State of California Summary

In summarizing what I told my audience, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence provide new challenges, but the opportunities for both private and public sectors are many. To harness the power of Big Data and AI, the State should focus on:

  • Minimizing impact of nefarious, illegal and dangerous activities
  • Balancing Consumer value vs. Consumer exploitation
  • Addressing inequities in data monetization opportunities
  • Re-tooling / Re-skilling the California workforce
  • Fueling innovation via university-government-business collaboration
  • Adopt regulations for ensuring citizen/customer fairness (share of the wealth)
  • Providing incentives to accelerate state-wide transformation and adoption
How State Governments Can Protect and Win with Big Data, AI and Privacy

Figure 5: Threats to the California “Way of Life”

It is up to everyone — the universities, companies, and individuals — to step up and provide guidance to our government and education leaders to keep California at the forefront of our “Analytics Revolution.” This is one race where there is no silver medal for finishing second.

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