Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday became the latest governor to sign an executive order directing agencies to develop new policies on how state agencies can use generative AI and to research how the technology might affect the state’s workforce, educational institutions and vulnerable populations.
Inslee’s order follows the generative AI policy work of California, according to a press release from his office, ordering new research into the potential benefits the technology could bring to the state, while also keeping in sight pitfalls, such as the potential for the technology to further disadvantage various demographic groups. The order outlines the state’s next year of policy work, including setting several deadlines around the end of the year for the creation of new reports, partnerships and policies.
Washington’s goal, the order states, is to develop “a transparent and consistent environment to use generative AI.”
“Our goal is to help the state continue using generative AI in ways that help the public while putting up guardrails around uses that present a lot of risk,” Katy Ruckle, Washington’s chief privacy officer, said in the state’s press materials. Inslee, meanwhile, said it’s the state government’s “duty to the public to be thorough and thoughtful in how we adopt these powerful new tools.”
Inslee is the nation’s 10th governor to sign an executive order that attempts to help his state ride the generative AI wave without wiping out. Concerns surrounding the technology — which Inslee’s office said is being adopted by people and businesses at “a dizzying rate” — range from the capacity of generative AI to further widen social gaps in access to technology to threats as devastating as supercharged disinformation campaigns and the unplanned democratization of weapons research.
Inslee’s order provides several examples of “high-risk” threats that could be potentiated by generative AI, including risks to public health, safety and fundamental rights, via “biometric identification, critical infrastructure, employment, health care, law enforcement, and the administration of democratic processes.” The order cites a need to catalog and mitigate “potential risks of [generative AI’s] use, including but not limited to privacy, cyberattacks, disinformation, deception, and discrimination or bias.”
Among the deliverables mandated by Inslee’s latest order is a report due this September from Washington Technology Solutions, or WaTech, the state’s technology department. WaTech is tasked with working with the governor’s Cabinet to find ways generative AI could be used and to develop guidelines for how government agencies must buy, use and monitor the technology.
The order also calls for new policies for training, equity and economic development. It tasks WaTech and the state’s Department of Enterprise Services to develop procurement guidelines for agencies purchasing products that use generative AI. The order asks for the state’s AI procurement guidelines to build on the the National Institute for Science and Technology’s Al Risk Management Framework and the White House’s AI Bill of Rights, a 2022 document that considers topics including data privacy and algorithmic discrimination. Guidelines must also include a new requirement for any vendor selling a “high-risk” generative AI system to certify the company has implemented an AI governance program consistent with NIST’s AI framework.
By January, Enterprise Services, WaTech and the Office of Equity must also submit a plan for training the state’s workers on how to use generative AI, considering potential benefits to operations and risks such as bias and new cybersecurity threats.
WaTech and the Office of Equity must by December work with community members and other state agencies to develop guidelines for agencies to analyze how generative AI might affect “vulnerable communities.” WaTech is additionally tasked with establishing an ongoing process that includes academia, industry experts and “representatives from advocacy organizations that represent communities that are disproportionately vulnerable to being harmed by algorithmic bias.”
By September, the Office of Equity must implement a framework for generative AI’s “fair, ethical, and equitable use.”
Several additional deadlines target impact on the workforce and training of state employees.
“With today’s action, Washington state is moving to the fore of policy work on this crucial 21st Century challenge,” Inslee said. “The work we do around generative AI over the coming year will be yet another example of how the Evergreen State is also the Ever Forward State.”