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毎日デイリーニューズ/2019/8/13 20:10
http://mainichi.jp//mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190813/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

AI systems hold great promise for local gov'ts, but efficiency isn't everything

More local governments across Japan are harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) systems in their operations.
With their machine learning capabilities, AIs can easily process large volumes of humdrum clerical work. Japan's local areas are dealing with population decline generally and a public administration staff shortage. We have high hopes for AI applications simply to ameliorate this problem through labor savings.
Providing citizens information on how to separate trash, over-the-counter public services, and public transport: these are just a few of the local services that have been considered for AI applications. The city of Takamatsu in western Japan prefecture of Kagawa, for example, is using AI to help evaluate parents' applications for one of the precious spaces in the city's day care facilities.
Evaluations are based on a point system that rates factors including the household's situation, and then ranks the applications in order of approval priority. This takes a lot of effort for human staff members, but according to the city the AI assigned to handle just part of the process managed to whip through a total of 600 hours of work for four people in less than a minute.
Meanwhile, the Minato Ward in Tokyo is using AIs to run English-speaking chat bots to handle service inquiries by foreigners, and to keep ward assembly meeting minutes, among other applications. It is also set to introduce an AI system to help with child care space application processing, just as Takamatsu is doing.
Prefectural and municipal governments have been cutting positions, but have been dogged by a lack of employees nonetheless. The sinking population has only exacerbated the problem, and so people are looking enthusiastically to AI as a solution.
However, it should be understood that the point of applying AI to government administration -- which focuses on serving citizens -- will naturally differ from applications in business -- which prizes management efficiency and profit-generation.
For example, checking and approving child care space applications is a sensitive task, and so it is very important for municipalities looking to use AI in the process to test the system to make sure it produces the same results as all-human evaluation teams. Even then, they must verify the AI's processes and carefully explain them to the public to make sure that there are no "black box" elements to the decision-making.
We must not forget that implementing AI should be for improving resident services. Unless AIs are used to relieve local government staff of simple administrative duties so they can use their time for more creative work or community outreach, then the technology will simply become a staff-cutting tool.
Furthermore, implementing AI systems is an expensive undertaking. That being the case, there is a risk an uptake gap will develop between rich local governments and more fiscally fragile towns and villages. Automating services will also require solutions to a number of issues, including how to handle personal information.
In the near future, it may become necessary to sort out what local administrative duties can be done by AIs and which need a human touch. This will be a major theme in how local governments evolve going forward. We hope they do not fall into the trap of prizing efficiency above all else.


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