Challenge 3: Skills

While all of us in everyday life are beginning to come across Artificial Intelligence tools (e.g. chatbots, virtual assistants and automated traffic calculation and management systems), there is a different familiarity in its use in professional contexts or in Public Administration [1].

The world of work is impacted by a profound transformation and in we will soon see an evolution of professions: there will be new ones, while the existing ones will be extensively modified with the introduction of new processes and methodologies [2].

It will be necessary to ensure that people are able to design and develop AI systems and applications, also in direct and deep collaboration with research and major technology operators.

In the same way, it will be of fundamental importance to cultivate and develop the skills necessary for the interaction between human beings and AI, which will become increasingly complex by virtue of the possibility of touching the language, gestures, body, emotions and many other expressive dimensions of mankind [3].

The consolidation of skills is therefore crucial to be aligned with the great technological and socio-economic changes that the world is about to face, in order to be able to prepare young generations, but also adults, to seize future challenges.

How are these skills enabled? There are several areas to act on: that, more specifically, of training public and private workers, on both the demand as well as the supply side, the more general, but not less important, aspect of the literacy of everyone in order to fully exploit digital services, and the most advanced aspect of specialized and trans-disciplinary training.

In the second area, that of literacy, it is important to help people understand what Artificial Intelligence is and what benefits it can actually make and what risks it entails, in order to enable them to make the best use of the services offered, inculcating a positive and optimistic approach in the collective imagination avoiding the rejection of the unknown [4].

Furthermore, since the relationship with AI largely takes place through natural interfaces - such as speech, written text and gestures - it is necessary to “educate” citizens with the aim of reducing the access gap to such technologies.

This latter point, of course, primarily involves the school system, which must take into account the changes described in order to make the training of citizens and workers of the future effective. Currently, and probably still for many years, Artificial Intelligence will be able to perform rather simple tasks. Already today, however, it is important that the school system and the university system enable students for the future in which they will live as adults, therefore developing problem solving and information analysis and synthesis skills, as well as those of formulation of independent opinions, creativity, empathic interaction and refined use of one’s sensory and psychomotor capacities, areas in which it will be difficult for machines to compete with human beings.

It clearly emerges that knowledge models based mainly on the memorisation of notions and information that have not been analysed or briefly elaborated and organised, and teaching methods that prioritise the quantity of knowledge acquired rather than the critical education of the student, are destined to progressively lose importance.

Regarding the third area, that of specialist and trans-disciplinary training for public and private professionals who intend to work in the AI sector, it is important to prioritise training in multidisciplinary contexts, providing them with the skills that are fundamental to fully understand the meaning of the solutions that will be developed from time to time and which will be destined to have an impact on people’s lives.

At the moment, in addition to technical experts in specific disciplines such as machine learning and data science, of fundamental importance will be transversal figures such as psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and humanists in general, able to improve the interaction between AI and its users, fully understand how the latter can be inserted in the various contexts of everyday life, improving its conditions, and establish meaningful interconnections between disciplines, so as to be able to create new generations of designers who are able to create systems of technological excellence that are also able to generate meaning and a tangible increase in economic, cultural, social and psychological well-being.

There is currently a disproportion between the demand for specialist figures in the fields of advanced technologies and the availability of adequate skills therefore, the private sector is willing to pay very high salaries in order to compete in the innovation market with the contribution of the best talent.

A challenge of PA will be to be able to retain researchers and professionals, albeit not being able to compete with the salary levels offered by the private sector [5].

The skills in administrations are in fact a determining factor for the balanced introduction of new technologies, for which it is important that the administrations are not dependent on suppliers.

Therefore, with a view to developing skills, permanent and specialist training mechanisms will be required at all levels. It is necessary to integrate the debate on the replacement of the workforce with an analysis of the new market needs and how the improvement of the skills of workers adequately trained on issues of AI can impact the quality of services and solutions offered by the market and the Public Administration.

From a training point of view, regardless of the educational or professional level, the integration of AI in learning programmes can contribute to increasing human abilities, supporting decision making and facilitating the possibility of engaging in more specialised or more creative activities.

One of the objectives of Artificial Intelligence applied to cognitive systems is precisely that of increasing human abilities.

Therefore, It is necessary to develop a profound awareness of the implications of the inevitable programming and calibration errors of such systems, that in exalting some aspects of the information available could inadvertently deform the importance or meaning.

From this point of view, Public Administration must become an “innovation gym”: just as, thanks to the Industry Plan 4.0 [6], companies know they have to implement resources and skills to keep up with the market, also PA, if it does not want to lose in capability, competitiveness and attractiveness, will have to envisage a plan to expand the skills of public employees and innovate digital services [7].


[1]Hila Mehr, “Artificial Intelligence for Citizen Services and Government”, HARVARD Kennedy School ‐ ASH Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, 2017.
[2]Carl Benedikt Frey, Michael Osborne, “The Future of Employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation?”, The Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, 2013.
[3]Ref. Challenge 9 “The human being”.
[4]Ref. Challenge 9 “The human being”.
[5]Cade Metz, “Tech Giants are paying huge salaries for scarce AI talent”, The New York Times, 22‐ 10‐ 2017.
[7]With this in mind, it will be essential to focus not only on training/updating of personnel but also on the ability to attract and retain resources with skills that can support the adoption of AI solutions in the public sector.