The Government Accountability Office (GAO) provided a glimpse into its vision for the organization’s Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics (STAA) team and Innovation Lab, at the Modernization in Action event on Oct. 29.

Through a process of de-risking failure, GAO said it hopes to make STAA and the Innovation Lab a hub for exploring emerging technologies – such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, quantum computing, blockchain and big data – when they launched earlier this year.

In a keynote speech today, Tim Persons, Managing Director of GAO’s Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics (STAA) project, updated the audience on the Innovation Lab’s progress and the future of the department.

“[The Innovation Lab] is GAO’s engine for modernization and change for itself as well as sharing insights for technology and its implications across government,” he said. “One of the key things we care about in the Innovation Lab is accountability and explainability.”

In a post on GAO’s official blog coinciding with the event, the agency explained that the Innovation Lab has the potential to save billions in government funds. For instance, the Lab is exploring the use of AI and machine learning to sift through Department of Treasury data and identify improper payments.

“In the user-centric environment of the Innovation Lab, by applying data science at scale and exploring emerging technologies such as machine learning and digital ledger, we will help the audit community address grand challenges,” said Taka Ariga, GAO’s Chief Data Scientist and Director of the Innovation Lab, in the blog post.

Persons added that the Lab will push STAA employees to quickly iterate and micro-correct new ideas in an open environment to improve agencies’ relationships with emerging technologies.

One of the key benefits of the Lab, he said, is simply having a department dedicated to trying new things. “How do you get around to actually testing things out? You have to have a space to do it,” he said.

In April, GAO released its initial plan for STAA, budgeting $15 million for a team of 70 staffers in fiscal year 2020.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.