Artificial intelligence (AI) has been permeating all aspects of our lives for a while. AI underpins several of the digital services we use and, perhaps less known to most of us, an increasing number of public services. However, only recently and on the back of questionable claims about existential AI threats, has AI regulation started to grab mainstream headlines, permeate public discourse, and quickly rise to the top of the political agenda. Before this recent flurry of AI regulation discourse, in late March 2023, the UK Government published a much-awaited white paper setting out its ‘pro-innovation approach to AI regulation’ (the AI White Paper). Much has happened in the short period since the AI White Paper was published, including the launch of a £100m Foundation Model Taskforce, the appointment of its Chair, and the announcement that, in a bid to lead the global discussion on AI guardrails, the UK will convene a global AI safety summit. (more…)
by Albert Sanchez-Graells, Professor of Economic Law and Co-Director of the Centre for Global Law and Innovation (University of Bristol Law School).
On 29 March 2023, the UK Government published its much awaited policy paper ‘AI regulation: a pro-innovation approach’ (the ‘AI White Paper’). The AI White Paper made it clear that Government does not intend to create new legislation to regulate artificial intelligence (‘AI’), or a new AI regulator. AI regulation is to be left to existing regulators based on ‘five general principles to guide and inform the responsible development and use of AI in all sectors of the economy’, including accountability, transparency, fairness, safety, and contestability. (more…)
by Professor Albert Sanchez-Graells, University of Bristol Law School.
Approximately a third of public sector spending goes to procure third-party goods, services, and works. Procurement rules and policies seek to ensure that contract awards are free from corruption, conflicts of interest or anticompetitive practices, and that these vast sums of public funds generate value for money and support social, environmental, and innovative practices. There is always room for improvement, though. The adoption of digital technologies is seen as a strategic catalyst for procurement reform, to increase the effectiveness of procurement regulation. Digitalisation could reduce the administrative burden through automation, generate data insights to inform policies and boost efficiency in public spending, and serve as a living lab for GovTech experimentation.
However, the transformative potential presumed in digital technologies generates hype and excessive expectations on the true size and nature of the achievable improvements. It also tends to overshadow the required groundwork and preparatory investment. New digital governance risks and requirements are not always recognised or understood. The growing public sector digital capability gap raises further obstacles. Heightened expectations and a minimisation of the challenges can get on the way of successful reform. In ongoing research funded by the British Academy, I apply an innovative technology-centred methodology to assess the governance opportunities and challenges for procurement digitalisation. This blog post provides a summary of the main findings so far. I will also be discussing them with a stellar panel on 15 December 2022 (details and registration). (more…)
By Prof Albert Sanchez-Graells, Professor of Economic Law (University of Bristol Law School), Dr Kirsi-Maria Halonen, Senior Lecturer in Law (University of Lapland, Finland), Prof Roberto Caranta, Professor of Administrative Law (Turin University, Italy)
Together with competition and integrity, transparency is one of the fundamental pillars of every procurement system around the world. Much of the efforts to ensure probity in the expenditure of public funds through procurement concentrate on mandating competition-enabling transparency of contract opportunities and accountability-facilitating transparency of the outcome of procurement processes. In the European Union, the 2014 Public Procurement Package continued to place the principle of transparency amongst its general principles and established rather detailed disclosure obligations, including the mandatory publication of a wider range of electronic notices (including for contractual modifications), a consolidation of the tenderers’ rights to access information about the procurement process, and higher standards for documentation and record-keeping by the contracting authorities.
More generally, the push for the development and adoption of open data standards for public procurement—in particular by the Open Contracting Partnership—has renewed efforts to bring procurement under the open government umbrella and to facilitate higher levels of transparency and accountability, in particular through big data analysis. In the European Union, the Commission highlighted the importance of procurement transparency in its 2017 Communication on ‘Making procurement work in and for Europe’, stressing that ‘The digital transformation, the growing wealth of data in general and the availability of open data standards offer opportunities to create better analytics for needs-driven policy-making and warning systems to signal and tackle corruption in public procurement’. The Commission thus established the goal of increasing transparency, integrity and better data as one of its six key strategic priorities. In particular, the Commission advocated the creation of national public contract registers by the Member States, providing transparency on awarded contracts and their amendments to enable dialogue with civil society and hold governments more accountable. (more…)