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Over the last two decades, local governments and authorities have faced increased obstacles and challenges that could be solved by using Artificial Intelligence (AI). But is this true? Could AI in local government change the game?

Local Government plays an essential and pivotal role in modern society. Through service delivery, community development, social participation, emergency response, community representativeness and effective public administration, Local Government is more present in our lives than we might think, and it is there to ensure democratic governance, citizen

The problem: A lack of effective response

In the last two decades, however, local government and authorities have faced increased obstacles and challenges derived from their readiness and capacity to effectively respond to new challenges. These may include, for instance, rapid digital transformation, climate-change challenges, housing crises, financial constraints, demographic changes, poor cyber security, as well as establishing new mechanisms for citizen participation and community development.

Without proper intervention strategies, the aforementioned obstacles and challenges can easily undermine the services and functions of local government, leaving residents complaint and despair.

Potential solutions: The implementation of AI in local government

Following the arrival of Industry 5.0, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a fast-growing technology with enormous potential. There are many local authorities around the globe that have already developed effective AI-empowered policies and strategies in tackling obstacles and challenges above.

Every day, more and more use cases of AI in local government are emerging around the world. These may vary from the simple and single use of AI to solve one problem to enterprise-scale applications that are driven by recent developments in generative AI.

  • Sample 1 (Front Door to FAQs):

    A large number of questions that local government entities receive daily have been answered by AI solutions, including the handling and processing of frequently asked questions (FAQs). In cooperation with ICS.AI., Derby City Council developed Darcie AI Helper, available both on the website and on the phone, aiming to provide assistance with a variety of services, such as analysing and responding questions related to the services of Council Tax, Street Pride, Parking, Blue Badge, Registrars, Benefits, Pest Control, Clinical Waste, Fostering and Street Lighting. As a result, the AI-empowered front door has generated great savings of resources and is widely applied to non-emergency services.

  • Sample 2 (Security enhancement and monitoring):

    As crime is still one of the major concerns for local government authorities across the world, the use of AI could enhance security in unprecedented ways. Currently, surveillance cameras are mostly monitored by humans and real-time crime. Using object detection and image recognition could improve public safety and give an additional valuable resource to first responders as they try to protect and secure the communities.

  • Sample 3 (Public engagement and idea generation):

    The municipality of Slagelse in Denmark embarked on a pioneering initiative, employing AI to revolutionise how policymakers receive information. This innovative project sought to redefine citizen engagement by involving them earlier and more consistently in policy development, shifting from mere review to active participation in formulation. Furthermore, the endeavour aimed to diversify participation, encouraging a broader range of citizens to contribute their perspectives and ideas in unique ways to policymakers. Recognizing a growing gap in citizen engagement despite increasing responsibilities, Slagelse drew inspiration from Frédéric Laloux’s book “Reinventing Organisation.” Their overarching goal became to establish the most desirable living conditions within the municipality, driven by the core principle that leveraging citizens’ knowledge and creativity would optimize outcomes for all residents.

Conclusion and suggestions: Promoting AI solutions in local government

These above and numerous other case studies are driving curiosity and motivating people to learn more about AI solutions. AI changed the paradigm as we are no longer talking about a technology that is searching for problems but rather about problems that look for AI-co-piloted solutions.

Policymakers and civil servants have become curious about exploring the merits and functions of AI in their businesses and services, particularly from the perspective of AI prevention; that is, can AI help recognize the probability of potential problems and deal with the source of problems more proactively? The application of machine learning, for instance, has been adopted by the Chinese Government to prevent accidents at road junctions.   Having said this, however, there might be some barriers to AI adoption at the operational level. In a recent podcast (AWS Conversations – The Role of Generative AI in State and Local Government ), AWS executive Government Advisor Jayson Dunn has identified two barriers:

The first barrier is related to the knowledge gap. Local government authorities may not necessarily have the required knowledge and/or skills for designing and implementing AI-empowered software and packages. Perhaps these authorities may partner with external technology firms and professionals in staff training and development, though, gradually building their capacity in offering AI-empowered services.

The second barrier is related to privacy and bias. Policies and procedures should be put in place beforehand to protect users and, ideally, avoid the abuses and misuse of AI-empowered services. The new AI legislation (UK AI Bill, EU AI Act or US AI legislation ) provides valuable insights into mitigating these risks. As AI-empowered services are still at their initial stage, further case analysis and research are recommended.

In conclusion, it’s time for more local authorities to consider AI as a potential solution for more effective ways to deploy resources and deliver services.

Local authorities could start educating themselves on how AI really works and then start looking for existing problem-solving use cases that they could explore. For instance, a problem could be reconsidered from both policy drafting and technology availability. Finally, although AI is not a panacea, AI-empowered services can definitely contribute to problem-solving, helping local authorities provide better and more efficient services.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Dr Alina Vaduva & Prof Kirk Chang

Quelle/Source: Open Access Government, 01.05.2024

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