Education & Government
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Diana Baker Freeman
Sr. Manager, Modern Governance Advocacy & Iniatives

What local government boards need to know about AI governance

February 23, 2024
0 min read
What local government boards need to know about AI governance

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a transformative technology with the potential to revolutionize various sectors, including local government. Some real-life examples of AI already being used by local governments include the City of Amarillo in Texas, which is building a digital assistant that uses generative AI to interact with residents seeking details about government and community services. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the North Lanarkshire Council have implemented AI-driven chatbots to help support mental health and combat high suicide rates.

However, as AI continues to advance, it is crucial for local government boards to understand the implications and responsibilities that come with its implementation. In this blog post, we will explore the key considerations and steps that local government boards need to take to ensure responsible AI governance.

What you'll learn

  • How AI is impacting local government
  • Latest stats on AI and its use in a state or local government setting
  • Risks of not putting AI governance in place

Our latest infographic looks at the role of AI in local government, how to adopt it responsibly and the risks of not creating policies to oversee and govern its use.

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Download our infographic here.

AI and its impact on local government

As Professor Helen Margetts of the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and Dr Cosmina Dorobantu, Co-Director of the Public Policy Programme at The Alan Turing Institute, point out in their paper “Rethink government with AI,” the technology has significant implications for how local government services are planned and delivered.

“AI is a disruptive technology of our time with significant implications on cities and how local government services are planned and delivered.” — Professor Helen Margetts, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford and Dr Cosmina Dorobantu, Co-Director, Public Policy Programme, The Alan Turing Institute

AI has the power to transform local government operations, making them more efficient, effective and citizen-centric. By leveraging AI technologies, local government boards can streamline processes, automate routine tasks, and gain valuable insights from vast amounts of data. However, it is crucial to approach AI implementation with responsibility and foresight.

Here are some areas where AI has significant implications for how local government services are planned and delivered:

  • Improving efficiency and cost savings through automation of routine tasks, optimizing resource allocation and analyzing data for predictive maintenance.
  • Enhancing service delivery and citizen engagement through personalized experiences, chatbots and virtual assistants, data-driven decision making and improved communication and feedback
  • Promoting transparency and accountability via real-time insights into government operations, fraud detection and prevention, as well as risk assessment and mitigation.

As Michael J. Ahn points out, “Governments will increasingly rely on AI for data analysis and policy recommendations. However, to ensure optimal use, there should be a clear delineation between AI's role as a data analysis tool and human agents' role as the ultimate decision-makers in policymaking.”

“Governments will increasingly rely on AI for data analysis and policy recommendations. However, to ensure optimal use, there should be a clear delineation between AI's role as a data analysis tool and human agents' role as the ultimate decision-makers in policymaking.” — Michael J. Ahn, associate professor, John W. McCormack Graduate School, University of Massachusetts Boston

The use of AI raises concerns about bias, data privacy and algorithmic transparency. Implementing AI ethically and responsibly is crucial. In addition, local governments must ensure that AI-powered services are accessible and equitable for all citizens, including those with disabilities or limited internet access.

Automation through AI may lead to job displacement in certain sectors. Transition plans and training programs are necessary to manage this impact.

AI presents both opportunities and challenges for local governments. By carefully considering these implications and implementing AI responsibly, governments can transform service delivery, improve citizen engagement, and ultimately build a more efficient, responsive and inclusive community.

Six steps to responsible AI implementation

To establish responsible AI governance, local government boards should follow these six essential steps as outlined by Darrell M. West in “Six Steps to Responsible AI in the Federal Government: An overview and recommendations from the U.S. experience”:

1. Having concrete codes of conduct

Local government boards should develop clear codes of conduct that outline ethical principles and guidelines for AI implementation. These codes should address issues such as privacy, bias, transparency and accountability.

2. Using appropriate tools for promoting ethical principles and fighting bias

It is essential to invest in tools and technologies that can help identify and mitigate biases in AI algorithms. Regular audits and evaluations should be conducted to ensure fairness and equity in AI decision-making processes.

3. Developing clear evaluation benchmarks and metrics

Local government boards should establish clear evaluation benchmarks and metrics to assess the performance and impact of AI systems. This will help ensure that AI is effectively addressing the intended goals and objectives.

4. Relying upon technical standards

Adhering to technical standards is crucial for ensuring interoperability, security, and reliability of AI systems. Local government boards should collaborate with industry experts and organizations to establish and follow these standards.

5. Experimenting via pilot projects and organizational sandboxes

Before implementing AI on a large scale, local government boards should conduct pilot projects and create organizational sandboxes. These initiatives allow for testing, learning, and refining AI systems in a controlled environment.

6. Having a mix of technical and non-technical skills in the workforce

Building a diverse and multidisciplinary workforce is essential for successful AI implementation. Local government boards should ensure that teams overseeing AI possess a combination of technical expertise and domain knowledge to effectively manage AI systems.

Current statistics about AI in local government

Despite the potential benefits of AI, there are still challenges to its adoption in local government:

  • Lack of understanding: A Public Technology Institute survey revealed that 85% of IT executives in local government believe they need training to better understand AI. This highlights the need for education and awareness programs to bridge the knowledge gap.
  • Absence of AI governance programs: Shockingly, according to surveys carried out by babl, 64% of government organizations do not have an AI governance program in place. This lack of governance can lead to ethical concerns, privacy issues, and public distrust.
  • Impact on operational decisions: Gartner found that approximately 60% of government AI and data analytics investments directly impact real-time operational decisions. This emphasizes the need for responsible AI governance to ensure accurate and fair decision-making.

To address these challenges, local government boards must prioritize the development and implementation of AI governance programs.

Lou Moore, Chief Technology Officer, Code for America comments that “The reality is that AI can’t replace the human touch when it comes to making government more accessible and equitable for all. The ability to understand complex barriers and implement meaningful, ethical solutions remains unique to people.”

The risks of not putting AI policies in place

The absence of AI policies and governance can lead to several risks and challenges, including:

  • Ethical concerns over biased algorithms: AI systems can perpetuate biases present in the data they are trained on, leading to discriminatory outcomes.
  • Privacy issues: AI systems often require access to large amounts of data, raising concerns about data privacy and security.
  • Transparency challenges leading to public distrust: Lack of transparency in AI decision-making processes can erode public trust in government services.
  • Security vulnerabilities: AI systems can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks and malicious manipulation, posing risks to sensitive government data.
  • Inequitable service delivery outcomes: Without proper governance, AI systems may inadvertently perpetuate inequalities in service delivery, disadvantaging certain communities.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance issues: Local government boards must ensure that AI systems comply with relevant laws and regulations, such as data protection and privacy laws.
  • Lack of oversight and accountability: Without proper governance mechanisms, it becomes challenging to hold AI systems and their operators accountable for their actions.

AI risk management

To effectively manage AI risks, local government boards can adopt the NIST AI Risk Management Framework. This framework consists of four functions:

  1. Govern: Establishing policies, processes, procedures and practices that are transparent and effectively implemented.
  2. Map: Understanding the context in which AI systems are deployed, including their intended use, potential impacts and stakeholders involved.
  3. Measure: Identifying appropriate methods and metrics to evaluate the performance, fairness and impact of AI systems.
  4. Manage: Prioritizing, responding to and managing AI risks through continuous monitoring, evaluation and improvement.

Using technology to help oversee AI governance

Governance technology tailored to the specific needs of local government can play a crucial role in supporting a systematic and responsible approach to AI governance. This technology can assist in the following key areas:

  • Policy development and oversight: Streamlining the development, implementation and monitoring of AI policies to ensure transparency, accountability and effective oversight.
  • Risk assessment: Identifying, analyzing and mitigating potential risks associated with AI implementation more efficiently and effectively.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Facilitating communication and engagement with various stakeholders around the use of AI in the organization to enhance transparency, address concerns and foster community engagement.
  • Training and awareness programs: your board management solution can help support training and awareness with key documents and training materials stored in your document library, ensuring that board members and staff are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate AI-related challenges.
  • Continuous improvement: metrics and reporting can help support data-driven decision-making to enhance AI governance practices, and keep a documented audit trail of all board actions and decisions, promoting transparency and accountability.

As local government organizations embrace the potential of AI, it is crucial for board members to be well-informed about the responsible implementation and governance of AI systems.

“Judgment is key. The governance team needs to have a process in place and a policy for how to use AI.” — Dominique Shelton Leipzig, Partner, Mayer Brown

Empower your local government board with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate the AI landscape and ensure responsible governance for the benefit of your community. See how Diligent Community can transform your local government organization and help your board manage your AI policies and governance. Request a demo today.


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