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NTNU Leads the Charge in Evaluating AI Tools for Public Sector Privacy and Efficiency

Generated with AI.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), in a pioneering collaboration with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, is embarking on a critical evaluation of generative AI tools, including Microsoft's Copilot for Microsoft 365, for public sector application. This initiative seeks to balance the scales between the efficiency these AI tools offer and the paramount considerations of privacy and data management within the public sector framework.

Microsoft's Copilot for Microsoft 365, a notable addition to its office suite launched last year, exemplifies the cutting-edge capabilities of artificial intelligence in enhancing work tasks through data-driven creativity and efficiency. However, its inherent nature to collect personal information raises significant privacy concerns, especially within the context of public sector operations.

NTNU, leveraging the Norwegian Data Protection Authority's regulatory sandbox for artificial intelligence, will pilot a project aimed at determining the feasibility of adopting such AI tools in a large public sector organization. "As we navigate the generative AI wave, it's crucial we align with the rapid developments without compromising on data integrity and privacy," notes NTNU's IT Director, Håkon Alstad, highlighting the dual focus of embracing innovation while scrutinizing data sharing implications.

The project's ambitions extend beyond a mere feasibility study; it aims to establish a comprehensive "Copilot readiness" assessment toolbox. This resource will guide other public and private entities in evaluating their readiness to integrate Copilot for Microsoft 365 or similar AI tools, focusing on privacy, data management, and operational robustness.

Project Manager Heine Skipenes emphasizes the unique considerations public organizations must account for, such as equal treatment, neutrality, and objectivity, underscoring the importance of preserving these principles in the digital tool exploration process. "Exploring digital tools must not compromise the cornerstones of Norwegian public proceedings," he asserts.

A key outcome of this collaboration will be the development of informational materials aimed at embedding operational privacy considerations early in ICT tool acquisition processes. This proactive approach to privacy is critical in ensuring tools like Copilot for Microsoft 365, with potential access to extensive personal and organizational data, are adopted in a manner that safeguards information security and privacy.

The project has garnered significant interest, attracting partnerships with Microsoft 365, Crayon, and Sikt, and stimulating technical inquiries from various stakeholders. This collaborative spirit is seen as beneficial for achieving a well-rounded assessment and fostering informed decision-making across target groups.

In line with its commitment to transparency and knowledge sharing, NTNU plans to host an open seminar to disseminate its findings and experiences, inviting both physical and digital participation. This seminar, details of which can be found on the project's website, represents an invaluable opportunity for stakeholders across the board to gain insights into the responsible deployment of AI tools in the public sector.

NTNU's initiative, in collaboration with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, marks a significant step towards integrating AI tools like Copilot for Microsoft 365 into the public sector, with a keen eye on privacy and data management. By developing a comprehensive evaluation framework and sharing their insights, NTNU is setting a precedent for how public and private sectors can responsibly harness the potential of AI, ensuring advancements in efficiency do not come at the expense of privacy and ethical considerations.

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