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AI in Local Government


Less than one year ago, most of us had never heard the term “artificial intelligence,” or AI for short. Yet, the impact of AI on local government can be significant, both in terms of benefits and drawbacks. Here are some pros and cons to consider. AI can help local governments automate routine tasks, such as processing permits and licenses, which can save time and resources. It can also analyze data to identify areas where resources can be better allocated, leading to more efficient decision-making.


Those who choose to utilize this new technology may find that it can help local governments provide better services to their constituents by analyzing data to identify areas where improvements are needed, such as transportation or public safety. In addition, it can also help municipalities provide more personalized services, such as tailored recommendations for services or alerts about relevant events.


The collection of data has almost become an obsession. It seems we just can't get enough of it to prove or disprove a concept. Now local governments can obtain real-time data and analytics, enabling better decision-making. This can also assist local governments to predict future trends, such as demographic changes, and adjust policies accordingly.


Cost savings are always at the forefront of the municipality’s operation. This technology can help save money by automating tasks, such as processing paperwork, that would otherwise require human labor. A huge plus is the ability to identify areas where resources are being wasted, such as energy usage, and make changes to reduce costs.


Of course, it isn't all flowers and roses when the decision is made to implement. Some are in fear of the entire idea, maybe for a good reason! Automating routine tasks through AI could lead to job displacement for local government employees. While it can increase efficiency, it may also lead to job losses, particularly for lower-skilled workers.


The algorithms used in this technology can be opaque and difficult to understand, which could lead to a lack of transparency in decision-making. For example, if local governments rely too heavily on AI, it could be difficult for constituents to understand why certain decisions are being made.


It has already been determined that the algorithms used in AI can be biased, which could lead to discriminatory practices. For example, if it is used to determine who receives government assistance, it could disproportionately benefit specific groups and exclude others.


Lastly, systems can be vulnerable to cyberattacks, which could compromise sensitive data or disrupt government operations. As a result, local governments must ensure that their AI systems are secure and have robust security measures in place.


Overall, AI can potentially transform local government in many positive ways, such as increasing efficiency and improving services. However, it is vital for local governments to carefully consider the potential drawbacks and implement safeguards to mitigate any adverse impacts.


An excellent example of its current utilization is in Erie County, on a bustling main highway into the city. This newly built system will eventually allow each light to be traffic responsive and use AI technology to communicate with other lights in a harmonized effort funded by the PennDOT Green Light-Go program. This technological improvement will be one of the first in operation in Pennsylvania. I suggest you "fire this thing up" and see if AI can improve your municipal operation.

 

About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 33 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at david@keystonemunicipalsolutions.com. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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