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30 January 20245 minute read

Business Advisory: How AI can be used in local government in 2024

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping local government operations, offering innovative tools that are significantly enhancing service delivery. AI not only streamlines administrative tasks, but also opens new avenues for deeper and more accurate engagement with community needs.

Many local governments are currently transitioning from traditional paper-based systems to digital platforms, a shift that is essential yet often slow and comes with some challenges. AI technology offers a unique solution to accelerate this digital transformation. By integrating AI-driven solutions, local governments have the potential to rapidly advance through various stages of digitalisation, quickly adopting improved systems.

We highlight three interesting examples of local governments transforming key elements of their value chain below:


Engaging efficiently with the community

As local communities grow and diversify, the ways local government communicates and interacts is becoming more important than ever. With AI there is an opportunity to rethink traditional communication channels.

For example, the Singapore government introduced Ask Jamie, an online virtual assistant that answers queries and provides residents quick and direct answers.

Ask Jamie taps into its Natural Language Processing (NLP) engine to understand the questions posed by the public and responds with an appropriate answer. When an answer entails multiple permutations, Ask Jamie can be trained to ask follow-on questions to refine the answer to one relevant to the user’s query. This allows manpower to be re-directed to handle more complex queries and issues.


Streamlining planning applications

Local government planning approval is a meticulous process, often entangled in layers of bureaucracy. AI presents an opportunity to cut through this, improve the application experience and expedite approval cycle times.

The City of Sydney is pioneering an initiative using AI to enhance the review process for Complying Development Certificates (CDC). This pilot project, utilising e-Planning tools, quickly identifies non-compliant application segments, offering immediate feedback to applicants.

The traditional approach, which saw over 30,000 applications in 2021-22, was marred by inconsistencies and delays. With this AI-driven method, applicants more quickly receive a preliminary assessment, thereby streamlining submissions and boosting the efficiency of the planning department.


Managing assets better

In Australia, about 657,000km of the nation’s roads are managed by local government and require ongoing review and maintenance. This is complex, expensive and when managed poorly, life threatening.

Asset AI®, is a technology development partnership between Transport for NSW, Canterbury-Bankstown Council, IPWEA Roads and the Transport Directorate. This pilot platform will offer real time diagnostics of road conditions, paving the way for proactive maintenance.

By outfitting both public transport and council vehicles with advanced sensors and cameras, Asset AI® leverages machine learning to identify risks and early indicators of road wear and tear. This integrative approach ensures that preventive maintenance can be scheduled proactively, safeguarding community well-being.


Understanding AI regulatory concerns

As these examples show, deployment of AI has the potential to provide significant improvements to the way local government delivers services. This is not without risk however, and any organisation seeking to play in this space must balance excitement with caution.

Globally, the regulatory framework for AI is still emerging. Organisations should proactively establish AI Hygiene practices to responsibly manage their AI-driven products and services. This involves several key steps:

  • Conduct an internal audit to identify all AI-driven products utilised within the business and by its customers.
  • Gain a clear understanding of how data is transferred and utilised across the organisation.
  • This analysis is crucial in determining if there is a need for organisational guardrails or information barriers to mitigate privacy risks.
  • Examine the current regulatory environment related to AI. Utilise these insights to evaluate and update all relevant policies and procedures. This includes ensuring that information security, privacy, and customer facing policies are not only suitable but also compliant with existing regulations.
  • Adopt best practices in AI development by adhering to international standards set by bodies such as the NIST and the ISO.
  • Assess customer contracts to ensure they adequately address issues related to privacy, liability, indemnity, and intellectual property rights in the context of the relevant AI products.

DLA Piper’s Intellectual Property & Technology team discusses the Australian AI regulatory environment in more detail here.


How DLA Piper Business Advisory can help

Navigating the complexities of AI integration requires a deep understanding of both technology and governance. DLA Piper Business Advisory empowers local governments to take proactive steps towards seamlessly adopting AI to deliver tangible benefits to their communities.

Our integrated teams of highly experienced advisors and lawyers with cross-functional teams provide clients technical solutions on AI adoption, procurement, deployment, risk mitigation and monitoring.

Contact Business Advisory to find out more.