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AI apps such as ChatGPT could play a role in Whitehall, says science secretary | ChatGPT


Michelle Donelan says artificial intelligence represents a ‘massive opportunity’ for the civil service and beyond

Artificial intelligence systems such as ChatGPT could play a role in Whitehall and represent a “massive opportunity”, the new science secretary has suggested.

Michelle Donelan, who took over the new role after the prime minister’s departmental reshuffle last month, said the civil service should rely on its own experts but did not rule out a role for artificial intelligence in the future.

ChatGPT can generate articles, essays, jokes, poetry and job applications in response to text prompts. OpenAI, a private company backed by Microsoft, made it available to the public for free in November.

It can respond to questions in a human-like manner and understand the context of follow-up queries much like in human conversations, as well as being able to compose longform pieces of writing if asked.

Donelan, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, told the Sunday Telegraph: “I think these types of technology are going to create a whole new section of jobs and in areas that we haven’t even thought of, and where this leads us is limitless.

“We need to tap into that. Of course we need regulation in place, we need safeguards. But we should never be afraid of these technologies.

“We should be embracing them and utilising them so that they can lead to job creation here in the UK.”

Asked about the use in the civil service, she said: “We need to think about what is the use for ChatGPT, just like any other organisation would as well.

“I think these are things we need to look at – I think that when we look at all forms of technology, what we should be thinking about is not how does this replace somebody’s job or how does this replace the functions of an individual.

“If we look at how this kind of technology could be utilised by teachers or by hospitals, you can think about how AI and other technology can reduce the administrative burden that individuals are facing so that they can get on with the actual job they were hired to do.”

Earlier this week, the International Baccalaureate announced that schoolchildren are allowed to quote from content created by ChatGPT in their essays.

The IB, which offers an alternative qualification to A-levels and Highers, said students could use the chatbot but must be clear when they were quoting its responses.

ChatGPT reached 100 million users in February, only two months after launching, according to analysts.

It had about 590m visits in January from 100 million unique visitors, according to analysis by data firm Similarweb.

Analysts at investment bank UBS said the rate of growth was unprecedented for a consumer app.

In comparison, it took TikTok about nine months after its global launch to reach 100 million users and Instagram more than two years, according to data from Sensor Tower, an app analysis firm.

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