Kita City ward in Tokyo is trialling Artificial Intelligence to help officials cope with increasing numbers of benefit claims in nursing care, it was announced.

Japan is struggling to cope with its rapidly ageing population. In 2014, 33% of the Japanese population was above the age of 60. By 2050, it is estimated that a fifth of Japan’s population will be 65 and above.

As the number of people that require care and the need for care facilities both increase, it is becoming more and more labour-intensive for government employees to analyse nursing-care benefit claims. This is customarily done by hand, requiring a high level of skill and lots of time.

Kita City is conducting a field trial to evaluate how AI can be used to streamline these tasks. The trial will apply machine learning to past data on benefit claims and the claims that required guidance and supervision, and automatically analyse the appropriateness of claim data. The trial will run until next month.

The Japanese government is no stranger to using AI in the public sector. In 2016, the government launched Society 5.0, a broad plan to use AI and robotics across public services to tackle “ageing, sluggish productivity growth and enhancing the wellbeing of humans”, said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Science and Technology in Society forum in October that year. Since then, Tokyo has trialled AI to mine officials’ past opinions on policy issues and help them draft responses used in policymaking.

One important area where AI has a great deal of potential is disaster preparedness, and it was recently announced that the coastal city of Kawasaki is using AI to predict tsunamis and their impact. This data will be combined with a simulation of residents’ evacuation routes and behaviour to find ways to better prepare for disasters and mitigate their impact.