Pros & cons: using AI in public service delivery

February 19, 2024 - 3 minutes reading time
Article by Razo Van Berkel

The promising potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being widely explored, including by local governments. Applying AI in service delivery to citizens certainly offers attractive benefits, although it also comes with solid risks that need to be carefully managed. Here are the three main advantages and drawbacks.

Pro: service level, engagement, and data analysis

Enhanced public service delivery:

AI can significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public services. For example, AI-driven systems can streamline processes like permit applications, public transportation scheduling, and utility management, leading to faster and more reliable services for citizens.

Personalised citizen engagement:

No one likes to get lost in a forest of web forms. Enter AI technology and digital assistants who think along with you and even use voice recognition. Such 'virtual civil servants' can provide people with tailored information and helpful services. This personalised approach can improve citizen satisfaction and engagement with local government services.

Data-driven decision making:

AI can analyse large volumes of data to identify trends, predict future needs, and inform policy decisions. This can help local governments allocate resources more effectively, plan better for future developments, and respond more quickly to emerging issues.


Artificial intelligence: what about legislation?

Read more.

Con: privacy, bias, and lack of transparency

Privacy and data security risks:

The use of AI often involves collecting, storing, and processing large amounts of data, including personal information. This raises significant privacy concerns and increases the risk of data breaches, potentially compromising peoples trust in government services.

Bias and inequality:

If AI systems are trained on biased data or algorithms are not carefully designed, they can perpetuate and amplify existing biases. This can lead to unequal service delivery or discrimination in areas like social services, law enforcement, and urban planning.

Transparency and accountability challenges:

AI decision-making processes can be opaque, making it difficult for citizens to understand how decisions that affect them are made. This lack of transparency can erode trust in public institutions and make it challenging to hold local governments accountable for their decisions.

In summary, while AI has the potential to transform local government services for the better, it is crucial to address the associated risks related to privacy, bias, and transparency. Balancing advantages and disadvantages is essential for responsible and effective public use of artificial intelligence that truly serves citizens.

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