Background to the report

AI has the potential to transform public services, but also presents risks and concerns.

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In 2023 the Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) began work with the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT) and HM Treasury to develop a strategy for AI adoption in the public sector. The draft strategy has four aims:

  • The UK public sector will be world-leading in safe, responsible and transparent use of AI to improve public services and outcomes.
  • The public will benefit from services that have been transformed by AI and will have confidence that the government’s use of AI is responsible.
  • Public and civil servants will have the tools, information and skills they need to use AI to deliver better outcomes.  
  • All public organisations will be more efficient and productive through AI adoption and have the foundations in place to innovate with the next wave of technologies.

Scope of the report

This report considers how effectively the government has set itself up to maximise the opportunities and mitigate the risks of AI in providing public services.

Our primary focus for this report is the role of the Cabinet Office and DSIT in supporting the adoption of AI in the public sector. Specifically, the report looks at:

  • the government’s strategy and governance for AI use in public services (Part One).
  • how government bodies are using AI and how government understands the opportunities (Part Two).
  • central government’s plans for supporting the testing, piloting and scaling of AI; and progress in addressing barriers to AI adoption (Part Three).

Video summary

Report Director, Ruth Kelly, outlines our findings on the use of AI in government.


AI presents the government with opportunities to transform public services. The centre of government has identified the potential for large-scale productivity gains from the adoption of AI across the public sector.

Responsibility for AI rests with DSIT and the Cabinet Office and, while the government is working on a draft strategy for AI adoption in the public sector, it has not yet finalised it or published an implementation plan.

Our survey of government bodies found that AI was not yet widely used across government, but 70% of respondents were piloting and planning AI use cases.

Government departments are required to create AI adoption plans by June 2024.

There are risks to value for money if the government does not establish which department has overall ownership and accountability for delivery of the strategy for AI adoption in the public sector and set out appropriate roles and responsibilities for those who need to contribute.

Achieving large-scale benefits is likely to require not just adoption of new technology but significant changes in business processes and corresponding workforce changes.

To deliver the transformational benefits of AI, the government needs to ensure its overall programme for AI adoption is ambitious and supported by a realistic plan for the skills, funding and wider enablers needed.

The government must also maintain focus on addressing other fundamental barriers to AI adoption, such as legacy systems, and data access and sharing, which will otherwise limit the extent to which it can exploit the future potential of AI.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (15 Mar 2024)

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