To test emerging tech like AI, Georgia plans innovation lab

Georgia state officials are planning a digital and in-person innovation lab to match technology vendors with agency challenges.
Georgia capitol building
Georgia capitol building (Getty Images)

Georgia state officials this week told StateScoop they’re developing an “innovation lab” — a digital and physical space where they can match the latest technologies, like artificial intelligence, with agency challenges.

The idea for the coming lab was partially born out of the avalanche of AI tools that vendors are thrusting in front of government tech leaders. Nikhil Deshpande, Georgia’s chief digital and AI officer, told StateScoop he expects the new lab to be launched soon — “not weeks, but months, but definitely not years,” he said.

“Today we see a lot of AI applications and demos and also as agencies we understand we have a certain need, a certain gap that needs to be filled,” Deshpande said. “The lab will give that needed space to give these proof of concepts in [the Georgia Technology Authority’s] controlled sandbox environment.”

Deshpande said officials plan eventually to establish a “roster” of vendors that are authorized to participate in the lab to help agencies solve various problems.


“The vendor partners will have the opportunity to directly present their solutions in the context of agencies’ business challenges and propose directly to agencies how some of these technologies could be fixing these gaps,” he said. “In no way is this a way of advocating for a certain technology. It’s purely a solution space, so we’ll be focusing on what the problem is and we’ll be looking at how can we solve the problem.”

While AI is unavoidable in 2024, Deshpande said the lab is designed to be technology-agnostic, intended to center around government challenges and stay relevant for whatever new technologies emerge in the coming months and years.

“The lab really is one way to expedite the development, testing, implementation of these solutions, most powered by some of the new emerging technologies, such as AI,” he said. “The AI revolution has reset some of the attention of some agencies to really focus on some of these problems in the hopes that the new emerging technologies can be a solution to fix those problems, so GTA is purely providing that ground to conduct these experiments.”

The lab is one third of a statewide AI initiative, alongside an AI governance framework and AI training for state employees. Led by the state’s technology department, the Georgia Technology Authority, the state’s AI effort also recruits the help of other government agencies, higher education institutions and the private sector.

Georgia officials last month convened the inaugural meeting of a new, 14-member AI council, which includes AI experts from Georgia Tech and Georgia State, private sector AI experts, Georgia agency chief information officers and statewide CIO Shawnzia Thomas, Deshpande said.


He said the group’s first monthly meeting reaffirmed the importance of AI ethics, data governance and AI training and standards. With the aid of Rose Procter, executive director of the TRUIST Center for Ethical Leadership at the University of North Georgia and a member of the AI council, Deshpande said, Georgia is developing an “ethical DNA guide” that establishes “statewide leadership” for the ethical use of AI.

“We pretty much confirmed that AI training and a critical focus on the ethical use of these technologies is not a nice-to-have, it is a necessity,” he said. “It is the initial step before we start using these new technologies. Every state employee must have an updated framework and the training as they work through these technologies, whether they’re using them in their own work or designing them for constituents.”

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