Artificial intelligence has transformed governments in various areas: healthcare, transport, public safety, digital services, and citizen engagement – and this time, it’s personal.
During a poll, referendum or vote, citizens may have to sift through great amounts of data, reports, and research before making their decision. Artificial intelligence can help to personalise this experience for millions of them, allowing them to read and understand key information in a more targeted and effective way.
So says Oren Alazraki, CEO of Horizon State, a startup that builds community empowerment platforms. “This kind of narrow AI is already proven to be quite effective – assessing vast data sets from social interactions online and analysing existing scientific papers, research and other credible information to create more meaningful outputs for individuals to digest,” he explains.
AI can help to customise data based on people’s behaviours and interests, what information they consume and how they consume. This way, agencies gain deeper insights into the most effective way to communicate with citizens on a case-by-case basis, according to Alazraki.
“We can not only scour broad data sets, past data sets and create information more efficiently than ever before, and more accurately than ever before, but also then present it in a way that’s going to generate better outcomes,” Alazraki says.
Algorithms creates a profile of user preferences from the way they consume information, he continues. “That forms a starting point to begin learning about the individual and making sure that information dissemination is becoming more and more effective for that individual over time.”
And while it may be “tricky” for any government to ensure that all voices are appropriately represented in national discussions, AI can help here – albeit in “a very simple and narrow way”, says Alazraki. Algorithms can help filter citizen sentiments by a specific constituency or country, according to him.
In government especially, he points out, it is crucial that there is diversity and inclusivity in citizens’ opinions. “It’s certainly the politically-engaged that talk often and talk the loudest,” he notes. AI can assess individual voices and apply a credibility or reputation score over time, he explains, based on the level of accuracy of former statements.
Millions of voices
AI can also help agencies to improve feedback mechanisms on a large scale. For humans, it is a tedious and near-impossible task to distill millions of pieces of feedback to create correlations and uncover patterns. But with AI can analyse huge amounts of data to flesh out suggestions that might not have otherwise come to light, or might have been in a government’s blindspot, explains Alazraki.
“That’s not to say that because [AI] is not perfect, we shouldn’t use it.”
Agencies should still conduct face-to-face interactions and other traditional citizen engagement strategies, and supplement these with AI. A combination of these methods will ensure that constituents such as the elderly and those with no access to the internet are included. “That’s not to say that because [AI] is not perfect, we shouldn’t use it”, Alazraki explains, but instead, it should be used as one tool among many.
AI for citizen engagement is already in use by Taiwan, for instance, where it is used to crowdsource opinions and come to a consensus. The tool allows citizens to complete surveys, comment on various discussions and even vote to agree, disagree or pass on a decision. The government’s innovation lab can then invite participants to online face-to-face meetings. The AI helps to cluster citizens with the same opinion to bring them to a specific consensus.
Similarly, Estonia has been running online votes since 2005, Alazraki concludes. “It’s clear that Estonia has been a leader in this space for quite some time and they were one of first governments globally to truly embrace digital.”
It could be near impossible for any human to read and analyse all of the information available to them before a key poll or vote. Here, handy AI assistants can pull out meaningful sentiments, helping them to make informed decisions before crucial political moments in their country’s history.
Image from Wikimedia