How AI can help governments improve critical citizen services

By Google

Highlights from an exclusive interview with Adelina Cooke, AI Policy Lead at Google Cloud at AI x GOV.

One of the greatest strengths of AI is that it can be incorporated into industries and services that are totally unexpected. While it is traditionally used for data analysis, visual AI is scanning agricultural crops and natural language tools are helping to counsel vulnerable citizens.

While the benefits of AI are clear, the groundwork has not been set out in its entirety. Greater collaboration between governments can open up more opportunities for AI innovation and create benefits for citizens.

Adelina Cooke, AI Policy Lead at Google Cloud, shared two pieces of advice for governments in an exclusive interview at AI x GOV. She shared how AI is being deployed today to help citizens globally and how governments can ensure their regulations over AI are effective.

Where AI is helping citizens

AI is already being used to help citizens in a number of ways, said Cooke. In India, Google’s tools help farmers analyse the different bugs and weather conditions that crops go through. This allows farmers to anticipate problems so they can weed out pests early on.

Moving out of the fields, Google has announced that it would give a grant of US$25 million globally to socially beneficial projects that need AI assistance. One project that stood out to Cooke was a counselling organisation that ran a suicide help line for LGBT individuals.

Call centres will use AI-led natural language processing and sentiment analysis to help counselors understand the risk level of callers, and respond accordingly.

The energy sector also saw improvements as a result of AI-powered data analytics. Energy producers were facing the challenge of blackouts and struggling to supply energy to remote areas. AI analysed energy usage, energy output and when energy is consumed to tackle the issue, Cooke shared.

After Google assisted the World Bank move to cloud systems, it enabled the use of AI data analytics. The AI was used to create models to predict famine faster than the current methods, explained Cooke.

This allowed the World Bank to look at their data and understand hunger and famine trends, informing how funds should be distributed to maximise efficiency, said Cooke.

How can governments implement effective regulation?

To fully enjoy the benefits of AI, governments must be assured that the technology is creating fair and beneficial outcomes for citizens. Governments are thinking about their own “tech muscle” which will be responsible for creating the “guardrails” around AI, said Cooke.

The EU is a good example or strong AI regulation, she noted. Its regulations make explicit “reference to where future standards are going to be” while listening to “a wide variety of industry and civil society perspectives”, she said.

This means that governments will be able to adapt and remain flexible. Policymakers are already preparing for future regulations, avoiding a static approach which “may be outdated as quick as you're able to pass it”, Cooke explained.

She also stated that governments can learn from international regulations that have already been created. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s AI principles, provide “a very strong basis” for robust self regulation, she shared.

The role of the cloud 

The cloud, and the AI tools that can be built on it, is particularly useful for benefitting social causes, said Cooke. For greater use of AI in this area, researchers must move their information to the cloud from the current siloed storage kept on premises systems, she added.

The cloud can also benefit ministries in government as a whole. Two ministries may have “shared challenges” with data that is useful to the other, but because they're not in the cloud then “it's really difficult to share data”, she explained.

Governments have the advantage of already being able to see where AI has been used to support citizens in order to help their own implementation. Not only this, but they can learn from the international community on how best to ensure AI is used responsibly.

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