EP41 Immediate Impact of AI on Local Government

Artificial intelligence has generated questions, concerns, and opportunity regarding its use, policy, architecture, training, and more. Santiago Garces, CIO, Boston, and Hemant Desai, CIO, ICMA, joined ICMA's Voices in Local Government two-part podcast on the Immediate Impact of AI in Local Government. Ultimately, there is no one right way to proceed, but there are best practices and a realistic starting point for city/county managers and their staff to deploy these tools to do their job more effectively and improve service delivery to their residents.


Quesions, Subtopics, and a Few Highlights from Part One

Define AI, GenerativeAI, and dismiss common myths or misconceptions.

How can AI can be used as a precise tool for a specific project right now?

How can local governments vet vendors?

Technology always works in function of a problem, so know what problem you have, and then make the vendor demonstrate that they're able to solve that problem, i,e., AI is not going to tell you what permit you need. So, you have to understand how AI is going to help you get what you need.

And here's the part that is maybe unpopular: it doesn't matter if it's AI. And in fact, sometimes there are tools that that will do things better than AI.

Application for smaller towns and counties.

Well, I'll start by sharing a dirty secret: we have spent so far close to $0 on AI in the city of Boston. So, you can do it in any size city. I think the first thing is trying the different tools.

Are GenerativeAI tools going to remain free?

AI’s ability to help and/or hurt public discourse and local government employees caught in the middle.


Questions, Subtopics, and a few Highlights from Part Two

How should IT or HR departments answer when employees ask: "How will AI make my job easier instead of replacing me?"

How residents can use AI to help themselves and create better interaction with local government.

As a resident, I would use some of these tools to look at some code related to something that I want to do. At work, I use a lot of the tools to try to process and understand our procurement code, the Massachusetts 30B, which is the state's procurement code. It's hard and dense to read through, but I could ask it to try to give me a version that is summarized and try to make it simpler and give it to me plain English or plain Spanish. 

What is the next step for local governments and individual staff after experimenting?

Internal guidelines.

We put together these guidelines that are on our website about the use of generative AI, and we tried to be purposeful instead of going for comprehensive and complicated. We tried to make it simple, and then we tried to get resources for people related to things to do and things not to do. We envisioned that it is a living document that will continue to evolve. And we've based it on conversations with people from ICMA and from other organizations, learning about areas that people think should be improved.

AI architecture.

Fear and optimism from our favorite fictional AI.


ICMA's Local Government Reimagined Conferences

Explore the Future of AI in Local Government

One topic; two locations. ICMA is headed to Boston, Massachusetts, and Palm Desert, California, for the Local Government Reimagined Conferences. From cutting-edge applications to strategic insights, discover how AI is reshaping the landscape of local government. Register here.


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