Artificial Intelligence in local government

It’s the phone assistant that responds to your voice command and the chat box that pops up on your bank’s website. Artificial intelligence (AI) has changed how we live and is starting to change how local authorities connect with their communities.

AI is making its way into local government, and we are throwing it a welcome party!

By “party,” we mean we’re going to talk about how AI can help local governments better serve citizens. (How else do LG comms people party?)

a businessman shaking hands with a robotWhat is artificial intelligence?

“AI can be defined as the use of digital technology to create systems capable of performing tasks commonly thought to require intelligence,” according to the UK Government’s Office for Artificial Intelligence.

“AI focuses on detecting patterns, making decisions, honing analytics, classifying data and detecting fraud. Used well, it can better help local authorities deliver services,” explains Tiffany St James, digital strategist and former Head of Public Participation for the UK government.

Areas in local government where AI has the potential to transform operations:

Enhancing services to citizens

“AI-powered assistants, technology, chatbots, and automated processes can allow better personalisation and micro-segment targeting,” says Tiffany. “This will enable more efficient interactions, enquiry handling, and ensure people get access to the right services more effectively.”

Enabling data-driven decision making

AI can crunch large amounts of data and provide councils with reliable predictions and actionable insights. Tiffany adds, “AI algorithms can be used to analyse complex data sets, identify trends, predict outcomes, and generate insights to enable more effective policy development and allocation of resources.”

Improving traffic management

“AI can improve traffic management by using real-time data analysis and predictive modelling to help analyse and improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, and optimise traffic routes,” says Tiffany.  For example, AI can use real-time traffic data to regulate the timings of red and green lights.

Here are a few AI applications that are currently in use in local government:

Programmatic advertising

Programmatic advertising allows marketers to reach their audiences with targeted messages based on audience behaviour. Councils can use factors like income, location and interests to design messaging for individual users and deliver it at the right time and place. Read about how Hampshire Council used programmatic advertising to almost double residents’ interest in fostering.

Chatbot service

An AI chatbot is an interactive application that can simulate human-like conversations with users. This chatbot continuously learns from user interactions. It can understand context and adapt to user preferences. Read about how North Lanarkshire Council in Scotland installed three chatbots to combat high suicide rates.

Virtual reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment that can engage users in a simulated world that’s almost realistic. It offers councils multiple options to enhance digital engagement with their communities. Read about how Surrey Council has used VR to involve younger residents in town planning.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) merges a virtual world with the real world to create a deeply immersive experience for users. It superimposes images, videos and 3D models on to real-world environments in real-time. The City of London council used AR to develop London History AR, an app that lets users view historical information about the city’s landmarks.

Spatial internet

Spatial internet uses maps, data and digital services to connect digital information and services with specific physical locations. The City of Helsinki has used spatial computing to create Virtual Helsinki, a digital twin of the City of Helsinki. City planners can use Virtual Helsinki as a basis for design and planning, to develop new services and even ascertain buildings’ heating requirements.

So, do we love AI?

We are talking to an increasingly cynical and discerning audience. AI can help local governments have deeper and more genuine interactions with residents. So right now it’s a major crush, which will definitely turn into something bigger. Stop it, we are so not blushing!

Tiffany St James is an award-winning digital strategist helping large businesses and governments embed better digital capability through her consultancy Transmute.

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