The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce with the mission of providing innovative data services to federal agencies to advance their federal data priorities. NTIS applies its unique joint venture partnership (or JVP) authority to leverage leading, innovative private sector organizations to assist governmental agencies with addressing data-centric challenges that require quick access to private sector ingenuity and expertise and achieve a capacity to scale and time to market.

At an upcoming December 2022 AI in Government event, Dr. Chakib Chraibi who is the Chief Data Scientist and Acting Associate Director for the Office of Data Services at NTIS will share additional insights on this topic. In this preview interview for Forbes, Chakib shares how NTIS is applying automation, AI and ML, some of the challenges associated in adopting transformative technology in the public sector, as well as how you can partner with NTIS.

What are some innovative ways you’re leveraging data and AI to benefit NTIS?

Dr. Chakib Chraibi: NTIS, the National Technical Information Service, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce with the mission of providing innovative data services to federal agencies to advance their federal data priorities, enable operational excellence, and achieve mission outcomes. How do we do that? Our approach is based on a Fed-to-Fed framework for data science innovation through precedent-setting partnerships with industry, universities, and non-profits. NTIS applies its unique joint venture partnership (or JVP) authority to leverage leading, innovative companies to help federal agencies solve their complex data challenges. Through the joint venture partner ecosystem, NTIS can bring in the nation’s top private sector companies, academic institutions, and non-profits to address national data centric challenges that require quick access to private sector ingenuity and expertise to achieve a capacity to scale and time to market.

NTIS’ joint venture partnership authority operates outside the U.S. Federal Acquisitions Regulation (FAR) and enables the execution of Interagency Agreements to drive innovation in a truly flexible and Agile framework. The overall objective is to accelerate results across the Federal Government by leveraging data as a strategic asset to achieve mission outcomes. NTIS’ vetted partners provide expertise and skills in data science, data engineering, data management and governance, data visualization, data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, intelligent automation, augmented intelligence, Blockchain, and other emerging technologies. This unique vehicle bridges the gap between data innovation and optimal data solutions, enabling Federal agencies to explore innovative ways to leverage their data assets, become data-driven, and maximize mission service effectively and efficiently.

How does NTIS accelerate leveraging data as a strategic asset to achieve mission outcomes?

Dr. Chakib Chraibi: Over the years, the government has collected and stored huge data sets in support of specific applications typically executed in legacy systems. To unleash the power of data analytics and artificial intelligence, a multipronged data strategy is needed. It should be geared towards eliminating data silos, migrating from, and eventually retiring legacy systems, and supporting data standards and sharing across agencies. Emerging and innovative technologies provide unprecedented opportunities to address mission-critical challenges and provide customer-driven services delivered efficiently, effectively, faster, and at lower cost. Succeeding in this effort requires a robust, healthy, transparent ecosystem of robust data and AI capabilities to support the entire business process from the genesis of the data to the experience of the end user.

NTIS provides a unique, vetted vehicle to leverage innovation and data science technologies to address mission-critical challenges and provide customer-driven services delivered efficiently, effectively, faster, and at lower cost. The framework is grounded in design thinking and Agile methodology. It promotes innovation by facilitating a robust conversation between the private sector and the Federal Government at a much earlier stage of the problem definition process. It includes immediate access to private sector expertise and capabilities with the experience and best practices required to quickly deliver on mission, enhance data culture, and establish the foundations for a modern data platform for consistent, secure, qualitative, and interoperable data collection, ingestion, analysis, and dissemination.

What are some of the unique opportunities the public sector has when it comes to automation and AI?

Dr. Chakib Chraibi: Data-centric innovation is fueled by the confluence of several emerging and maturing technologies, including cloud computing, data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, Blockchain, zero trust architecture, and eventually quantum computing. It is extremely critical for Federal agencies to engage in sustained digital transformation, mature their data infrastructure and processes, and adopt intelligent automation and artificial intelligence. First and foremost, it is critical to design and develop a true data-centric architecture, which is key to unlocking the value of data, empowering data-driven tools and technologies, and ensuring proper data governance. Then, it is important to establish a sustained data-driven culture and strategy to empower data-driven digital transformation. The many challenges that impede the adoption of AI and emerging technologies include the lack of a robust strategy, the underwhelming support for the modernization of systems, the tepid development of data-driven platforms and applications, and the scarcity of the workforce to implement, monitor, and leverage data-driven solutions. Finally, it is crucial to continuously ensuring ethical data practices and monitoring impact.

NTIS has assisted several Federal agencies in moving from a disconnected, siloed, antiquated environment to a cloud-based, flexible, high-performance data platform that enables to ensure proper data quality, management, governance, discoverability, searchability, and sharing as well as accelerate automation, innovation, and self-service analytics. The entire data-driven processes become far faster and more precise than ever. NTIS has empowered Federal agencies transform their business processes through the automation of manual, high volume, error prone and repetitive tasks, leverage human-centered data visualization tools and dashboards to identify trends and patterns, streamline the generation of reports, and harness Natural Language Processing to enhance efficiency and responsiveness.

What are some use cases you can share where you successfully have applied AI or automation?

Dr. Chakib Chraibi: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) touches the lives of all Americans through programs that provide health insurance, promote public health, protect the safety of food and drugs, and fund medical research, among other activities. As healthcare systems become more complex, fraud cases may become more sophisticated. The Office of the Inspector General at HHS has leveraged NTIS’ data innovation framework to support its mission to provide objective oversight to promote the economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and integrity of HHS programs, as well as the health and welfare of the people they serve. As a result of this partnership, HHS-OIG has developed a cloud-based data analytics platform to empower auditors, evaluators, investigators and attorneys with modern data and analytic capabilities to help target their work, identify fraud patterns, and execute their missions.

NTIS has collaborated with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to effectively support its goal to eradicate malaria across the world, as part of the President’s Malaria Initiative. USAID is committed to evidence based and data driven approaches to create innovative, breakthrough solutions to achieve the

global target of malaria eradication by 2040 – 2050. USAID has developed an Agile delivered data commons in a secure cloud based platform called the Malaria Data Integration and Visualization for Eradication (MDIVE) platform. This central virtual space provides USAID and partners with the ability to make more accurate monitoring and evaluation determinations, enabling USAID to improve malaria prevention, treatment, and control strategies.


NTIS is collaborating with Office of the Chief Information Officer at the Department of Labor to support the development of a big data-integration system, integrating 15 legacy data-centric system applications. NTIS partnered up with the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) to support their initial effort to accelerating the delivery, scale, and synchronization of the department’s artificial intelligence efforts. For instance, there was an interest in leveraging machine learning capabilities to better combat the growing risk of exposure to cyber-attacks. The effort led to the development of SEARCH-T, a novel information retrieval system that ingests cyber log data and uses tensor decomposition to represent network behaviors in a consistent, high-dimensional space. SEARCH-T allows analysts to rapidly identify devices on a network that are behaving similarly to known malicious devices.

Can you share some of the challenges when it comes to AI and automation in the public sector?

Dr. Chakib Chraibi: AI technology as nearly all other technologies can fail —intentionally or unintentionally. It is then critical to invest in better understanding AI, engage in early adoption, develop test pilots, and appreciate AI strengths and opportunities, as well as its challenges and risks. One of the most critical components of any operational entity is its data. In most agencies, data may be siloed, difficult to access or are of poor quality due to lack of proper data collection, ingestion, management, and governance. There is a lack of a unified data management platform with tools and techniques for collecting, securing, analyzing, disseminating, and managing data-driven solutions. Trust in AI is core to AI successful adoption and return on investment. Embracing Responsible AI throughout the development and deployment of AI solutions is essential.

Data science and AI are transformative technologies. It requires a systemic shift of how we design and develop our solutions, moving from applications-oriented to data-centric approaches. It is a challenging task that, at its core, requires a fundamental cultural change and an operating, innovative framework. The framework should include artifacts such as criteria, metrics, and guardrails to be considered and evaluated, and processes to incorporate and monitor these artifacts in the data life cycle. This requires a strategic vision and specific data science skillsets. The data scientist shortage leaves some federal agencies unable to employ data science to aid their digital transformation and decision-making progress. Data scientists can be real change makers within an organization and offer insights how to operate faster, cheaper, lighter, better, and smarter. The new occupational series job classification for data science established by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is a step in the right direction.

How are you navigating privacy, ethics, and security concerns around the use of AI?

Dr. Chakib Chraibi: The United States Federal Government is one of the biggest producers and users of data in the world. Vetting the process of incorporating automation, data science and artificial intelligence into decision making based on that data and other external data sources is critical. Assessing impact and probing algorithms to ensure ethical development and deployment are a must, as well. There have been some significant government initiatives towards supporting Responsible Artificial Intelligence (RAI). RAI refers to making appropriate ethical choices when designing, developing, testing, deploying, securing, and monitoring AI solutions, as well as continuously assessing impact as intended. Responsible AI is about AI being explainable, transparent, privacy -preserving, robust, accountable, fair, and ultimately, trustworthy. It is about making sure that data sources, data practices, and algorithms leveraged truly reflect these principles and widely accepted values.

Responsible AI builds trust in AI applications. The question is how to make sure that AI-based solutions are used as intended and in accordance with our purpose, laws, regulations, and values? A part of the answer is to empower a better understanding of data science and artificial intelligence technologies, which can be complex, and provide a practical operating framework that bridges the gap between concepts and action. NTIS is well-positioned to support federal agencies towards that goal. Moreover, the Department of Commerce, as part of its Data Strategy action plan, will be releasing soon a report providing guidance for ethical, responsible, and equitable data practices to appropriately support the Department’s mission. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has just released an updated draft of its AI Risk Management Framework (RMF).

What are you doing to develop an AI ready workforce?

Dr. Chakib Chraibi: As “America’s Data Agency,” the Commerce Department demonstrated leadership through the development of the Commerce Data Strategy, in accordance with the Federal Data Strategy. The Strategy provides a roadmap to maximize the positive impact of Commerce data and staff. Implementation of the Strategy will be executed through five interdependent strategic goals, one of which is to ‘cultivate a modern data skills workforce.’ It is vital for government agencies to accelerate the transition to new and emerging technologies by developing data acumen and advanced analytics skills in the workforce.

Commerce and its bureaus are engaged in enhancing their strategies to assess and improve staff data skills and building a learning data-centric culture. For instance, there is an initiative on evaluating various learning platforms and best practices to enhance data literacy and data science skills. Another departmental effort aims to support the ’Democratizing Data: Commerce’ effort by empowering communities to leverage data that will inform their decisions and drive lasting change. Empowering the federal workforce with data acumen is essential in sustaining the fundamental digital transformation process of migrating from an operational architectural model to a decision support environment.

What AI technologies are you most looking forward to in the coming years?

Dr. Chakib Chraibi: We are living exciting times, in terms of advanced and emerging science and technologies. Personally, I believe that AI is the most awesome technology we have encountered at this point in human history. AI capabilities have spawned a lot of advances and opportunities in several areas.

Augmented Intelligence, which uses AI for cognitive enhancement of humans, is an area that can provide immediate growth and quick wins while presenting the challenge of how to best integrate it to enable any stakeholder work better and smarter. How can we create a symbiotic interface that combines human intuition and knowledge with data insights? As a result, it will be easier to access and effectively exploit cognitive and smart features to improve and accelerate human capabilities while minimizing human bias and error. This has shown great potential for future national security and defense capabilities, healthcare, as well as in disaster relief and other socio-economic applications.

There is also the challenge of how AI affects National Security. Although AI may offer a variety of benefits, it may also present unique obstacles. It is critical to adopt and effectively integrate AI technology for national security purposes. The attack surface is continuously growing and evolving. Analyzing and improving cybersecurity posture is not a human-scale problem anymore. Artificial intelligence (AI) based cybersecurity products have emerged in response to this unprecedented challenge to assist information security teams in reducing breach risk and enhancing their security posture. Furthermore, regarding cybersecurity, cyber criminals have moved to fully utilizing AI to generate a new type of attacks and increase the cyber risk. Adopting the Zero Trust Architecture and improving federal agencies’ cybersecurity capabilities are essential.

AI applied to healthcare provides great opportunities to improve patient care and reduce health care costs. The deployment of AI in healthcare has been disappointing for multiple reasons, including the need for greater trust, lesser hype, and a better understanding of how the technology should be leveraged. However, AI is bound to be instrumental in drug discovery predictive analysis and infection disease surveillance. There are some encouraging advances in applying AI in cancer detection and prognosis. AI can also help provide greater access to high quality healthcare services for underserved communities and personalized treatment plans.

Quantum Computing is a real game changer. It represents a new paradigm in computation that utilizes the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics to perform calculations. The promise of quantum computation is the ability to efficiently carry out operations that are too massive for even the greatest conventional computers to handle. For instance, the effects on cybersecurity and supply chains will be enormous. On one hand, there is a need to develop quantum-proof data protection and encryption. On the other hand, quantum computers are valuable for enhancing supply chains, fleet operations, air traffic control, and delivery.

In his upcoming December 2022 AI in Government presentation, Dr. Chakib Chraibi will dig into these topics discussed above as well as share additional highlights on innovative technologies and how data plays a critical role.


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