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Source: Tunisie Numerique as of 20-07-2020

Defining Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a complex task even for specialists in the field. In a media report, the Collège de France  defines AI as a set of techniques that enable machines to perform tasks and solve problems normally reserved for humans. AI tasks can be very simple for humans. They sometimes require complex planning. The most complicated tasks require a lot of knowledge and common sense.

Recently, several media outlets reported on the results of a survey conducted by the Ministry of Industry and SMEs entitled “Perception of Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector”.

The survey conducted during the last quarter of 2019, among a sample of 1000 state employees, points out that more than 85% of public sector employees believe that it is a priority to adopt a national AI strategy and that 90% of the population surveyed believe that it is a priority to improve the public service, thanks to AI.

For 85% of the population surveyed, AI can contribute to the improvement of public service, especially with regard to the reduction of related costs (travel costs, congestion related to direct contact with users, etc.). The majority of state employees (89%) seems confident and curious about the impact of AI on their jobs in the years to come, regardless of job qualification, the survey reveals.

On the other hand, for public servants to effectively pour into this sophisticated and robust niche of AI and new technologies to optimize public sector efficiency, there will certainly be a long way to go.

And for good reason, the operating costs of the Public Administration, including salaries and current administrative expenses, consume, according to a note from the Ministry of Finance, stopped at the end of April 2020, 83.9% of the country’s tax revenues. A very irrelevant situation that requires a lot of collective intelligence – obviously before moving to AI – to mitigate its negative impact.

From this perspective, the Arab Institute of Chief Executives (IACE) presented in April 2017 the recommendations of a study on the theme of “Reform of Public Administration: For Better Performance” and stressed, as such, the need to combat the complexity and slowness of administrative procedures in Tunisia, which present major obstacles to investment, considered a key driver of economic growth.

In the face of these administrative rigidities, reforms are essential in order to create a climate conducive to private initiative and business and to solidify the entrepreneurial fabric.

The IACE study points out that in terms of the efficiency and effectiveness of the civil service, Tunisia ranks 117th in terms of the “weight of customs procedures” and 101st in terms of “efficiency of management bodies”, reflecting a deterioration in the situation of the country’s administration.

It is also indicated that public administration is an inefficient organization whose main causes lie in the lack of control and evaluation, lack of productivity and lack of communication. According to the IACE study, the cost of the non-quality of state administration amounts to 4,500 million dinars (basic year: 2015).

Faced with such a situation, it is obviously premature to mention any transition to AI to the public sector which suffers from several problems requiring enough intelligence and ingenuity to manage them, in the simple sense of terms, no more!

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