South Korea to use AI to notify citizens of welfare entitlement; US taxpayer data at risk due to cybersecurity deficiencies: policy and delivery news in brief

By on 20/04/2023 | Updated on 20/04/2023
Image of a robot with computer code. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Global Government Forum’s digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

South Korea to use AI to notify citizens of welfare entitlement

The South Korean government has set out plans to use artificial intelligence to improve services for citizens, including using the technology to automatically notify individuals of their entitlement to the country’s more than 1,000 welfare benefits.

The use of the technology is proposed as part of the government’s Digital Platform Government initiative, which will also work to incorporate the approximately 1,500 public services provided across multiple websites into one portal.

The recommendations have been briefed by officials as part of the Presidential Committee of Digital Platform Government, which was launched last September to provide a new government digital strategy.

According to a report from Korea Bizwire, the AI-powered benefits notification system could be up and running by 2026, with other uses of AI being explored including allowing AI software such as ChatGPT to access government forms to help improve accessibility.

“Digital Platform Government is a hopeful and bold challenge achieved through close cooperation between the government and the private sector based on AI and data,” said Koh Jean, the chief of the committee, adding that a “visible outcome is expected in 2026”, according to Korea Bizwire.

Read more: Innovation 2023 five minutes with… Yvan Gauthier of Canada’s Artificial Intelligence Accelerator

US taxpayer data at risk due to cybersecurity deficiencies

A US federal government inspector general report has warned that taxpayer data “could be vulnerable to inappropriate and undetected use, modification, or disclosure” unless the Internal Revenue Service boosts its cybersecurity.

The annual assessment of the IRS’s Information Technology Program by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that the IRS’s cybersecurity programme was effective in only three of 20 core metrics examined.

The review highlighted problems in the IRS’s handling of private taxpayer data, access controls, system security and configuration management, and response to insider threats. There were also issues around the IRS’s security policies, procedures, and documentation.

The inspector general review concluded that the IRS “needs to take further steps to improve its security program and fully implement all security program components in compliance with federal requirements; otherwise, taxpayer data could be vulnerable to inappropriate and undetected use, modification, or disclosure”.

Read more: Biden administration tables ambitious anti-COVID fraud legislation

UK senior civil servants consider strike action after ‘contemptuous’ pay offer

The FDA trade union that represents senior civil servants in the UK is to ballot officials on industrial action in response to a pay offer described as “contemptuous”.

The union’s executive committee met on Wednesday to agree to ballot members in a dispute over pay for the first time in 40 years.

The action came after the government publicised civil service pay remit guidance last week that would provide most civil servants in the UK government with a 4.5% increase, with an additional 0.5% uplift to ensure the lowest paid keep pace with the living wage.

However, unlike other public services like health and education, there was no cash payment included in the award to compensate for 2022/23. This was worth £1,000 (US$1,244) in education and £1,600 (US$1,991) + 2% in health.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman described the pay offer as “unconscionable given the current economic climate that civil servants face”, and said it would “leave the civil service with the worst pay deal in the public sector by far”.

Announcing the ballot for industrial action, Penman said: “In my 23 years at the FDA and 10 years as general secretary, I have never found myself so utterly at a loss as to why the government would want to treat our members and the rest of the civil service in this way.

“If this is, as I suspect, a tactical decision to use the civil service to send a message elsewhere then not only is it a flawed one, but it once again demonstrates that there are those in government who simply do not value the civil service in the way they do the rest of the public sector.”

The UK civil service’s other trade unions, Prospect and PCS, have already staged industrial action this year over pay, while other parts of the UK public sector including the National Health Service and schools have also been affected by strike action.

Read more: UK civil servants’ pay satisfaction drops dramatically, official survey shows

UN warns governments that disaster risks are ‘out of control’ as lessons are ignored

The United Nations has urged governments around the world to learn lessons on how to respond to disasters as it warned action to better protect people from major catastrophes had stalled.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said increasing numbers of people were being affected by larger, ever more complex and more expensive disasters – both natural and due to human activity – because government decision makers are failing to tackle dangerous risks.

The agency published a review of how governments are implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This 2015 global agreement is intended to “prevent new – and reduce existing – disaster risk” by getting governments to take action to understand the risk of disasters, and to be ready to respond.

However the midterm review of the Sendai framework, mandated by the UN General Assembly, found lessons from past disasters seem to have been ignored, and progress on meeting the seven targets in the framework has stalled or, in some cases, reversed.

Among the reversals highlighted in the report is an 80% increase in the number of people affected by disasters since 2015 to more than 150 million – despite a pledge in the Sendai framework for governments to put in place measures that can help “substantially reduce the number of disaster-affected people globally”. The economic cost of disasters is also increasing.

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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