Josh Shapiro

Pennsylvania among the states vying for leadership role on AI

The commonwealth is taking significant steps toward investment in artificial intelligence

Following his swearing-in as the 48th Governor of Pennsylvania, Governor Josh Shapiro delivered his inaugural address to Pennsylvania.

Following his swearing-in as the 48th Governor of Pennsylvania, Governor Josh Shapiro delivered his inaugural address to Pennsylvania. Commonwealth Media Services

By Chris Teale

2024 promised to be another banner year for artificial intelligence – and, just a little over two weeks into the new year, that promise appears to be holding true. The governors in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania last week all announced major AI initiatives. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged in her State of the State to make the Empire State a “national leader in AI research and innovation” with the unveiling of a consortium to promote research and innovation in the technology, as well as policy guidance for agencies looking to implement AI solutions.

Not to be outdone, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy similarly pledged in his State of the State address “to lead the way globally in AI.” Recalling President John F. Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, Murphy said his “AI Moonshot” initiative would “explore the furthest reaches of science in our time.”

Specific details are yet to be released, but Murphy said the aim is for “our state’s top minds to pioneer a series of AI-powered breakthroughs over the next decade that will change the lives of billions for the better.” That could include revolutionizing the discovery of new drugs and medical treatments, and bringing forward new educational tools that can improve students’ literacy rates and math skills, among other innovations.

This latest announcement follows the establishment by Murphy of an AI task force in October to recommend actions and a new policy in November to promote state employees’ responsible use of generative AI.

Acknowledging people’s concerns about the technology and its potential negative impacts, Murphy said in his address that while “the future of generative AI has yet to be written … New Jersey can be the author.” 

New York and New Jersey’s moves follow those in Pennsylvania, one of the states taking significant steps toward such an investment. Last week, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced a first-in-the-nation pilot for government employees to use the generative AI tool ChatGPT in operations after it signed an enterprise agreement with parent company OpenAI.

The ChatGPT pilot will at first only be available to employees in the Office of Administration, who can use the tool for tasks like writing and editing copy, updating policy language, drafting job descriptions, addressing any duplicative or conflicting guidance in employee policy or helping generate code.

Employees will receive guidance on when best to use ChatGPT and will be able to provide feedback during the pilot to help guide future uses, as well as give insights into its limitations. Once that feedback has been gathered, an additional 100 licenses to use ChatGPT will be made available to employees outside of the Office of Administration for shorter periods of time.

The enterprise version of ChatGPT has more security, privacy and management features not found in the consumer version. No commonwealth data or feedback will be used to train it or any future OpenAI products, and employees are banned from using any sensitive information when using the tool.

“This pilot program is part of our commitment to embrace generative AI in a way that empowers our workforce to excel,” Pennsylvania Chief Information Officer Amaya Capellán said in a statement.

Also looking to embrace AI is Maryland, where, last week, Gov. Wes Moore signed an executive order to direct its responsible use by state agencies, in addition to other actions designed to speed up the government’s digital modernization.

Most notably, Moore’s executive order established an AI subcabinet, filled with various state leaders and chaired by the state’s secretary of IT. The subcabinet must create an AI action plan, promote AI knowledge among state employees, identify use cases and make recommendations on how it could impact various areas of the state’s economy, workforce and security.

“By modernizing state government, we will better meet our constituent needs, we will better address our community challenges, and we will better assert Maryland’s leadership in this decade,” Moore said in a statement.

Chris Teale is a staff reporter for Route Fifty, where this story first appeared.

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