Big and powerful technologies need big and complex problems that they can solve on a large scale. 

With regard to artificial intelligence, scale so far has been largely limited to problems posed in business and academic environments, with the notable exceptions of  Jeopardy and cancer diagnosis

The US government is now supporting the exploration of benefits and risks of AI in government and public-sector applications, with the White House co-hosting a series of four workshops on challenges and opportunities of AI in the public sector. The workshops will cover areas ranging from legal and governance aspects, safety and control to economic and social implications. This level of public discussion of society-wide applications will help generate the right scale and scope for a powerful technology such as AI.  

Areas singled out for particular focus by the US government include healthcare, voice and image recognition, education, transportation and logistics. 

Wider society could benefit greatly by governments playing an active role in exploring public-sector applications of AI and machine learning. This could lead to the provision of government services at a fraction of current costs and on a larger scale reaching a wider base of citizens. It appears to be a win-win situation - AI could become a core element of public sector infrastructure.

You can read more on the US government initiative in a blog post published by Dr. Ed Felten, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer.