Demystifying and exploring artificial intelligence for counties – National Association of Counties

As 2023 rolls through the last quarter, every day brings new updates on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in counties. In October alone, there was interesting news on the use of AI in 911 AI bots are helping 911 dispatchers with their workload. In recent months, efforts have been underway to create county policy and solve other challenges. Here are a couple worthy articles:
The above is just a sampling of the rise of AI’s use in counties. In the following paragraphs, I will elaborate on AI’s importance as well as an update on the NACo AI Exploratory Committee, including an upcoming survey.
Even as I was typing this article and doing an online search, the browser I was using displayed an AI chat box with the following. I didn’t have to drill down and search through various posts. The use cases were summarized nicely!
AI can be used in local government for various purposes, including:
Yes, the benefits of AI are significant for counties. So when you hear someone saying let’s “pause AI”, that’s simply not possible at this stage. In fact, I have heard from several different counties that while leadership believed staff were not using AI in their work, when line staff were asked, they were in fact using generative AI to increase their productivity and save time on simple tasks such as writing emails, preparing meeting agendas, developing PowerPoints and even summarizing/transcribing meetings.
While we might temporarily avoid using generative AI ourselves, it’s ultimately unrealistic to expect staff to avoid its use. Rather counties can harness artificial intelligence in a responsible way that can enhance productivity as well as create solutions that can help address county pressing issues around homelessness, health and human services, and criminal justice, to name a few.
In order to do that, a basic understanding of AI is needed. In recent research on Artificial Intelligence, I discovered this video. It is a great source of comprehensive and easy to understand language that gives viewers an opportunity to understand artificial intelligence, how it started and where it has progressed to in recent years. I would encourage readers to take five minutes to watch this video.
NACo is doing its part as well in supporting the NACo AI Exploratory Committee. Formed in the spring of 2023, this committee is moving forward to meet the overall mission of the committee is to explore AI and provide counties with resources that will help guide their use of AI to solve county problems. You can read more from the committee members themselves in this article. The next step of the committee includes overseeing workgroups that include applications, policy, ethics and workforce. The second in-person meeting occurred on Oct 13. Presentations from corporate entities as well as a university introduced the committee to the future that is here now, including robots!
Next steps for the committee will be for the workgroups to convene on a regular cadence and develop recommendations for the AI guides and toolkit that will be available in 2024. In order to augment that work, the committee will also be distributing a survey in the coming weeks to garner feedback from all county members on current AI use in their county work and challenges that they are seeing.
Additional resources are also available through the NACo Tech Xchange. A series on “Chart your AI Growth” is being offered this fall. The first webinar was held on Oct 18, with two more scheduled for November and December. Additional information about each webinar and to register can be found through the TechKnow Series.
The future of artificial intelligence is still unknown. How far counties can go with artificial intelligence, is unchartered territory, but it is here to stay and counties can leverage its use to benefit both staff and residents of the county.
For more information, contact Rita Reynolds, NACo CIO or Seamus Dowdall, NACo Associate Legislative Director for Technology and Telecommunications.
NACo’s AI Exploratory Committee covers emerging policies, practices and potential applications and consequences of Artificial Intelligence (AI), through the lens of county government governance, operations, constituent services, innovation, public trust, privacy, and security, and workforce productivity.
National Association of Counties Artificial Intelligence Exploratory Committee plans survey to gauge local support.
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