TECH | Mar 22, 2018

PA and Artificial Intelligence: challenges, recommendations, projects

White Paper on AI by AgID presented and funding of 5 million euro announced for development of pilot projects

Artificial Intelligence is also a subject of interest for the Public Administration. This is demonstrated by presentation of the first White Paper entitled Artificial Intelligence at the service of the citizen, prepared by the IA Task Force of Digital Italy Agency, which is designed to act as a reference point or guideline for sustainable application of AI ​​in various public areas.

The White Paper is just the start of a project pathway that supports the recommendations and challenges presented with an allocation of 5 million euro destined for the development of pilot Artificial Intelligence projects for Public Administrations which will work with the Agency to identify possible initiatives. These projects will have to respond to the recommendations contained in the White Paper and which fall within the funding lines for the promotion of innovative procurement and open innovation pathways.

What areas of application exist in the public sector?

There are many potential applications of AI: from healthcare to the education system and the judiciary, and including security and management of relations with citizens. To give some examples: during the presentation, the experience of Japan was cited, where staff in public offices respond in a personalized way to all citizen requests using Artificial Intelligence instruments, and the United Kingdom, where wearable technology is being considered for monitoring and fighting the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These are only some examples of possible use among the various others described in the White Paper.

What are the challenges of Artificial Intelligence in PAs?

This is the first document on the topic of Artificial Intelligence addressed to public administrations containing recommendations and indications on how best to exploit the opportunities of Artificial Intelligence in order to improve public services.

The 9 challenges present are certainly not trivial: they range from ethical, legal, technological and cultural issues as well as those related to the relationship between technology and human beings. No less important are those referring to the elimination of inequalities, measurement of impact and accompaniment to transformation following a multidisciplinary and systemic approach.

What are the things to pay attention to?

To underline the risks of non-conscious and non-rational use of artificial intelligence in PAs, Antonio Samaritani, Director of AgID, has argued: “The paper recommends using AI systems in compliance with the principles of privacy, transparency and security to protect citizens. In particular, we share the need to make the mechanisms of operation of the algorithms and the logics of database construction public and to develop guidelines for security by design in the use of AI, to develop ad hoc preparation courses within the PA, to train experts in Artificial Intelligence and to create a national platform to test and develop AI solutions”.

What are the recommendations to follow for small samples of AI in PA?

The final part of the document contains recommendations for starting with small projects that pay attention to the correct planning of investments and resources useful for developing projects, that refer to the indications contained in the Triennal Plan and that take into account the minimum measures for ICT security in public administrations to be adopted for countering the most common and frequent threats to information systems. But also starting with a pilot project on which to experiment; working on the quality and accuracy of the data that underlie AI; not giving up on developing in-house professionalism and skills through continuous training initiatives; always staying up to date on new developments and, above all, being active in the community, where it is possible to participate in open (or the starting of new) discussions on issues related to task force activity and AI in general.

One of the phrases used to present the challenges of the White Paper, one that shows optimism about the central value of people, also when we talk about AI is: “We cannot teach our kids to compete with machines. Machines are faster, do not get tired, do not become angry. We have to teach our kids something unique. In this way, in thirty years’ time, they will have a chance” (Jack Ma).