Copilot not in the box seat for Government AI says DTA

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) maintains there is still a level playing field for competing generative AI platforms within the Australian Government, despite Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announcing a six-month trial of Microsoft 365 Copilot in a meeting with CEO Satya Nadella in San Francisco.

At an industry briefing for a Request for Information (RFI) on services and support for generative AI, Lisa Jansen, a/g General Manager at the DTA, said, “that is still just a limited trial that we're only doing for six months and there is no commitment from government to further invest in that.

“We're using this RFI around understanding what's possible and what makes sense to consider into the future. Similarly, we're doing that through the Copilot trial.”

During the six-month trial, which will run from January to June 2024 and was arranged through the DTA, Microsoft will provide training, onboarding and implementation assistance with participating agencies.

Microsoft will provide digital training to help APS staff to develop their AI skills and literacy.

The government states this trial “positions Australia as a leader in adopting artificial intelligence that increases productivity, and is functional and fit for purpose.”

Alex Roberts is Lead, Sourcing and Infrastructure at the DTA, and a member of the AI Taskforce, led by the DTA and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

Asked during the Generative AI RFI industry briefing “What is the big problem you are seeking to resolve?”, he responded, “We're really trying to understand how we can use these technologies to achieve better outcomes while maintaining public trust.

“There are a lot of ways that we are starting to see how this technology can be applied. Part of the work of the taskforce is understanding the different use cases.

“The federal government in the United States has published a use case inventory of over 700 use cases detailing all sorts of ways that this technology might be applied in their context, and other governments are looking in other ways.

“What we're trying to do is help the collective Australian Public Service learn as quickly as possible about these things and act as a bit of a central coordination point for some of these things.

“But we are not setting hard and fast limits on what other government agencies can and can't do in terms of using generative AI solutions.

“We really want to understand it before our government takes too big a step in investing and the Australian Public Service takes too big a step in integrating this in our ways of working and day to day operations.”

Copilot is predicted to be a big moneymaker for Microsoft, with one analyst predicting that it could generate $US10 billion a year by 2026. CEO Satya Nadella claims 40% of companies in the Fortune 100 are already testing Copilot.

Launched at Microsoft Ignite 2023, Copilot Studio is a new platform that delivers tools for connecting Copilot for Microsoft 365 -- the Copilot in apps like Excel, Word and PowerPoint as well as Microsoft's Edge browser and Windows -- to third-party data.