Although the concept of a data-driven ‘smart city’ has been around for decades, many municipalities have yet to deploy the fundamental infrastructure required to harness the full potential of data analytics and AI.
The potential of AI for public administrations is manifold. The development of AI technologies is already having an impact on how the public sector works and designs policies to serve citizens and businesses. Applications touch on areas such as health, mobility and security services.
Local, regional and national governments are implementing projects aimed at exploiting AI to better meet the needs of public-service users and workers. Many use cases are also aimed to enhance stewardship and promote a more efficient use of public resources (e.g., increasingly saving the time civil servants spend on user support and administrative tasks so as at to optimize the use of staff capacities and time to attend to all eligible users and increase quality of the assistance provided).
According to a recent report commissioned by the Administrative Conference of the United States to Stanford University and New York University, AI tools are already improving agency operations across the full range of governance tasks, including:
Enforcing regulatory mandates concerning workplace safety, health care, and environmental protection;
Adjudicating government benefits and privileges, from social aids to intellectual property rights;
Monitoring and analyzing risks to public health and safety;
Extracting useable information from the government’s massive data streams, from consumer complaints to weather patterns; and
Communicating with the public about its rights and obligations as welfare beneficiaries, taxpayers, asylum seekers, and business owners.
Nowadays the AI tools available to governments span the full technical scope of AI techniques, from conventional machine learning to more advanced “deep learning” with natural language and image data. Despite the promising results achieved in many countries, European cities are still lagging behind in large scale implementation of AI in public services’ design, delivery and monitoring. Several struggles make still difficult for public administrations to keep pace with the dynamic and fast development of AI. Among those, there is the need for further work in terms of legal structures to support data sharing, usage and integration; improving standards; practitioners training; digitalisation for work practice and users support.
Moreover, when it comes to utilize AI based systems for the adjudication of social benefits, which is the core e-Government domain that GAVIUS aims to address, the public needs to be confident that the algorithms powering machine learning are fair and verifiable. For this reason, robust information governance and explainability of the algorithms are key prerequisites when deploying AI in the government sector.
Engstrom, D.F. et Al. (2020), Government by Algorithm: Artificial Intelligence in Federal Administrative Agencies (February 1, 2020). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 20-54, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3551505.