Scotland’s AI Strategy. CivTech Challenge: using AI to enable more inclusive access to public sector services

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Written by Scott Nowbaveh, Scottish Government AI team

The Scottish Government’s AI team continues its partnership with CivTech Scotland to tackle inequalities by embedding inclusive communication within the public sector.

This challenge has been put out to tender through the Scottish Government’s CivTech Programme, which invites entrepreneurs and start-ups to help solve tough challenges faced by public sector organisations. In a tech world that is increasingly fast paced and ever-changing, CivTech solves the problem of ‘how to procure what you don’t know exists’.

The Scottish Government and Scottish public sector provide a wide range of public services face-to-face (for example, a medical consultation), by video (NHS Near Me), telephone (NHS 24’s 111 service), and increasingly, online services such as NHS Inform, which can incorporate content such as information text, questionnaires, and chatbots.

Participants in this Challenge will work with public bodies and people with lived experience of barriers to accessing public services, such as telephone based-services. This might include people who have lost their voice, have difficulty speaking, are deaf but do not use British Sign Language, have a learning disability, lack dexterity to select number buttons, or live with lifelong or acquired conditions, such as cerebral palsy or motor neurone disease. A key metric of success for this Challenge will be to increase the proportion of people in Scotland reporting that their communications needs are being met when accessing public services.

This is one example of the challenges for one specific mode of service delivery (the telephone), but there will be other challenges for the other modes and services listed above. This variety as well as the intersectionality between different dimensions of disability – such as cognitive (dementia); communication (blindness, deafness, speech impairment, dexterity – but also neurodivergence, age, poverty and other socio-economic factors means a range of inclusive solutions is required.

The Challenge sponsor team includes Scottish Government Digital Health & Care and AI teams, and the NHS 24 Participation and Equalities Manager. This Challenge builds upon and complements previous and ongoing AI-related CivTech challenges: A Challenge on explainable and ethical AI in the public sector. This has been led by the Oxford University company Mind Foundry to allow users of AI systems to better understand how AI can support human decision-making. A challenge on on giving the citizens of Scotland trust and agency over how AI and algorithms are used in the public sector. This challenge is led by the Finnish startup Saidot.

If you’re interested in applying or would like to find out more about the process then you can:

  • View the recently held CivTech Q&A session

  • Submit questions (before 1600 on Tuesday 21 June 2022)

To submit to the challenge or submit questions, please do so via Public Contracts Scotland. The closing date for applications will be 1200 on Tuesday 28 June 2022.

For further information on the challenge application or CivTech process, please look to the challenge page on the CivTech site.

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