Artificial intelligence and automation have been spruiked as critical parts of public sector reform. Public health bodies, social security departments and tax agencies have jumped at the opportunity to adopt automated and datadriven systems as replacements for human administrators. The planning and functioning of cities, law enforcement and judicial decision-making have also been targeted as ripe for reform using AI.
Behind the hype, a complex picture emerges, involving issues of privatisation, privacy, accountability and technological capability that are overlooked or concealed in the push to automate government. It’s time for public sector tech to get a reality check.