Amsterdam and Helsinki have become the first cities in the world to launch AI registers that are available to the public and allow anyone to track how algorithms are being used in the municipalities.
The cities' governing bodies said that the move was made so as to ensure that AI used in public services is managed with the same transparency, responsibility, and security as other local government activities.
An AI-driven future
Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking an increasingly important role in our lives. This is something that is reflected in the emergence of campaigns such as Stop Killer Robots, and in the fact that companies such as Google are working to combat AI-developed fake news via their own algorithms.
Every day, whether we use public transport or use a government website, we are at the behest of algorithms programmed by the government to automate important functions of our daily lives.
Launching the world's first open algorithm registers
"Algorithms play an increasingly important role in our lives," Touria Meliani, Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam, explained in a press release.
"Together with the city of Helsinki, we are on a mission to create as much understanding about algorithms as possible and be transparent about the way we — as cities — use them. Today we take another important step with the launch of these algorithm registers."
The registers for both Amsterdam and Helsinki were developed by Saidot, a Finnish company that develops tools to help public agencies make their use of algorithms and AI more open and explainable to the public.
"Helsinki aims to be the city in the world that best capitalizes on digitalization. Digitalization is strongly associated with the utilization of artificial intelligence. With the help of artificial intelligence, we can give people in the city better services available anywhere and at any time. In the front rank with the City of Amsterdam, we are proud to tell everyone openly what we use AI for”, said Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki.
Works in progress
Both registers currently only contain a limited selection of applications; as TheNextWeb reports, Helsinki's register is currently comprised of an intelligent management system for the city's library and a quartet of chatbots.
Amsterdam's register, meanwhile, includes details for an automated parking control system, a tool that analyzes reports on public space issues, and an algorithm that tackles illegal vacation rentals.
Both cities plan to add more to their registers during the fall, and eventually aim to display all of their algorithms openly the registers for anyone to see.
Nieuws! Amsterdam en Helsinki lanceren het eerste algoritmeregister ter wereld. Algoritmen worden steeds belangrijker voor onze stad en we vinden dat iedereen het recht heeft om te weten welke we gebruiken en hoe ze werken. Leer de algoritmen kennen: https://t.co/Yo8dcnCcL8 pic.twitter.com/nCF1bgh9Pi— touria (@touriameliani) September 28, 2020
"The use of artificial intelligence is becoming more common in the world, and its use will also increase in the city's services in the future, as artificial intelligence becomes more familiar and the city learns more about its applications. The wide-ranging utilization of artificial intelligence is conditional on maintaining trust in the city's activities," Pasi Rautio, Project Manager of the Helsinki City Data, AI and robotization project entity, explained.
"Therefore, the city strives to strengthen this trust with the greatest possible openness. This is why the Artificial Intelligence Register has also been created," he continued.
There is still some way to go, but it's a promising step for initiatives that are transparent and raise awareness about our increasing dependence on city automation via artificial intelligence.