Brazil’s national AI strategy is unachievable, government study finds

By on 21/06/2022 | Updated on 21/06/2022
Aerial photograph of buildings in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. J
The survey found that 38% of federal government organisations do not plan to use AI. Photo by Fábio Nuno via Pexels

The objectives set out in Brazil’s national artificial intelligence strategy are unachievable, according to a study by the government’s accountability office.

The report by the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) found that the objectives set out in the Brazilian Artificial Intelligence Strategy (EBIA) were not “not specific, measurable, realistic (achievable)” and that as such the “proper implementation” of the country’s AI policies are compromised.

As well as evaluating the EBIA, the TCU also sought to understand the use of AI by the federal administration, and identify the risks associated with the technology.

It found that of the 263 organisations surveyed, 100 (38%) do not currently plan to use AI in their production processes or in the provision of services to citizens.

The EBIA’s objectives include developing ethical principles that guide responsible use of AI; removing barriers to innovation; improving collaboration between government, the private sector and researchers; developing AI skills; promoting investment in technologies; and advancing Brazilian tech overseas.

Read more: Brazil launches national AI strategy

However, the TCU found that the EBIA “failed to answer trivial questions” and as such does not clearly present indicators and targets related to the objectives; does not give a timeframe for meeting them; and that it does not explain the theory behind the policies outlined within it or how they address the causes and effects of the problem they are intended to solve.

“Without baseline values about the reality to be improved, it will not be possible to develop any relevant analysis of the results achieved,” the report said.

In addition, it said in its report that the strategy, which was launched in 2021, does not present a monitoring and evaluation structure, and that the governance and management structures necessary for the implementation of AI policy are “not formally institutionalised”.

Although the TCU did not make recommendations based on its findings due to restrictions, it suggested that its report be reviewed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the governing body of the public policy, “to contribute to the improvement” of the EBIA.

Lack of training holding agencies back

While the majority of federal government organisations do not plan to use AI and are defined as being at ‘Level 0’ when it comes to AI maturity, artificial intelligence projects have been implemented in around 8% of organisations including the Judiciary, which the TCU noted for its progress in the area.

Of those surveyed, 33.5% said they had started having internal discussions around AI but that these were on a speculative basis.

“In those cases, it was found that the simple lack of knowledge regarding the opportunities and benefits that can be achieved with the use of these technologies was an impediment, which suggests a gap that runs through the limitations in the workforce and reaches the leaders of these organisations,” the report said.

Among the other key difficulties when it comes to adoption of AI is the low number of employees with sufficient training to implement it. Indeed, the report found that 48% of the organisations surveyed did not perform any internal AI training.  

Helping governments to ‘better understand reality’

The TCU report noted that governments “should seek to leverage” AI technologies to transform the public sector and redefine the ways in which public policies and services are designed and implemented. “This innovation and transformation are critical for governments, as they face increasing complexity and demands from their citizens and public and private organisations,” it said.

It added that AI can be used to automate process-orientated administration tasks “increasing public sector efficiency and freeing up public employees to focus on more meaningful work” and that with the help of AI, governments can “better understand reality, make decisions within their organisations, and anticipate the needs of the population”.

Since Canada became the first country to adopt a national AI strategy in 2017, other governments have raced to develop policies that will reap the benefits of AI while curbing its harms.

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·        US sets out strategy to retain dominance in emerging tech

·        Australian AI plan promises new money and standards overhaul

·        Scotland launches AI strategy with a focus on ethics and inclusion

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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