Survey: Feds Don’t Think Agencies Are Preparing Them to Use AI

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Only a quarter of government employees think agencies have done a good job explaining how the tech will affect their jobs, researchers found.

Federal employees largely see it as inevitable that agencies will bring more artificial intelligence tools into the workplace, but they don’t think the government is doing a good enough job preparing workers for that change, a recent survey found.

In a survey published Tuesday, some three-quarters of feds said it’ll be important for them to develop new skills to work with AI in the coming years, but only about a quarter of them think agencies have adequately explained how the tech will change their day-to-day jobs.

The survey was conducted for Accenture Federal Services by the Government Business Council, the research arm of Nextgov’s Government Executive Media Group.

Federal tech leaders have long evangelized the potential of artificial intelligence to take over the mundane tasks that bog down the federal workforce, and in turn free employees to do more meaningful, creative work. Just last week, the Trump administration called on agencies to double down on AI research and create programs to help feds navigate an increasingly tech-centric job market.

But while the upper circles of government lay the groundwork for an AI-powered future, employees further down the ladder feel like they’re being left in the dark.

It’s not that feds don’t understand the benefits of AI—a majority of those surveyed highlighted the tech’s potential to reduce repetitive tasks and increase productivity. The problem, according to researchers, is that employees don’t feel like they’re being considered in the equation.

Only half of the 500 federal workers who participated in the survey believe agencies are committed to adopting AI technologies in a way that boosts the skills of their the workforce. More than 75 percent of employees said adaptability will be key to succeeding in a more tech-heavy workplace, but many fear they’ll be left to handle those changes on their own.

Most respondents are open to learning new skills, and agencies could motivate many to do so through sponsored training programs, researchers found. Still, some 60 percent of feds worry the government won’t provide sufficient resources to help them adapt to more AI in the workplace.

“While most [federal employees] feel confident in themselves, they would feel much more confident if they had adequate ‘technical support and user training,’” researchers wrote. “If the role of intelligent technologies is to augment human performance, workers should be involved from the onset—starting with helping identify the specific tasks that are well-suited to AI-powered augmentation or automation.”