15 May 2024
by Gareth Ricketts

Optimising the application of AI for next-gen innovation in business

Guest blog from Gareth Ricketts at VE3 as part of our #UnleashInnovation campaign 2024.

Following the explosion of interest in Artificial Intelligence, there have been many predictions as to how the deployment of technologies will impact work practices & processes. This has even more resonance in government where automation offers the promise of delivering more service whilst minimising spends. In a recent LGA report, this intent can be seen by the fact the Local Government AI Network has grown to a community of over 250 council officers dedicated to critically exploring the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Several councils including Buckinghamshire and Barnsley are positively adopting Copilot, across various user cases.

The questions as to how AI is adopted to benefit all mainly resolve around 4 main concerns;

1) Can we integrate AI as a helpful tool rather than a liability?

2) Does AI pose a threat to democracy and society through deep fakes?

3) Can AI deliver a more inclusive future?

4) What regulation strategies need to be developed to guarantee trustworthy AI?

UK local councils are increasingly exploring and adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to improve services, enhance operational efficiency and address complex challenges.

The use of AI in local government is still evolving, but several key applications have emerged: 1) Customer Service and Engagement: Chatbots and Virtual Assistants - Many councils have introduced AI-powered chatbots on their websites to provide residents with 24/7 access to information and services. These virtual assistants can answer common queries, direct users to the correct information, and even handle transactions in some cases, reducing the need for human intervention and speeding up response times.

2) Data Analysis and Decision

Making a) Predictive Analytics - Councils use AI to analyse vast amounts of data for predictive insights that can inform decision-making and policy development. For example, predictive models might help identify which geographical areas are most at risk of homelessness, allowing for targeted interventions.

b) Social Care: AI technologies analyse data to identify individuals or families that may be at risk and need early intervention, potentially improving outcomes in child and adult social care.

3) Operational Efficiency

a) Automation of Routine Tasks - AI is being used to automate routine administrative tasks such as processing benefit claims or planning applications. This can free up staff time for more complex or sensitive work that requires human judgment.

b) Resource Allocation - AI can optimize the allocation of resources, such as scheduling repairs and maintenance work for public infrastructure based on priority and urgency, potentially leading to cost savings.

4) Public Safety and Regulation: 

Surveillance and Monitoring: AI-powered surveillance systems can be used for public safety purposes, such as monitoring crowded areas and detecting suspicious activities. However, this use of AI raises significant privacy and ethical considerations that councils must navigate. - Regulatory Compliance - AI tools help ensure businesses and individuals comply with local regulations, identifying potential issues more efficiently than manual checks.

5) Environmental Management

Waste Management: AI technologies optimize waste collection routes, reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Some councils are exploring the use of AI to sort recyclable materials more efficiently. - Energy Use: Smart systems powered by AI manage energy use in public buildings, automatically adjusting heating, lighting and air conditioning to reduce consumption and costs. Challenges and Considerations: While the potential benefits of AI in local government are significant, councils face challenges in adopting these technologies.

These include budget constraints, the need for digital infrastructure, concerns about data privacy and security, and the ethical implications of AI decision-making. Ensuring transparency, accountability and public trust is crucial as councils explore the use of AI. Conclusion: The adoption of AI technologies by UK local councils is a promising development that has the potential to transform public services and improve community life. As these technologies continue to evolve, it is likely that their use in local government will expand, offering new ways to address longstanding and emerging challenges.

However, in reviewing the concerns surrounding the use of AI and leveraging its benefits, it should be borne in mind that as a predictive tool it can only offer Yes / No responses, which contrasts with humans in that we have the third option - maybe. This ability of AI to be absolute gives clarity but can also magnify bias and create division - compromise being built on accepting two points of view on the same question can be right.

Therefore, with all AI integration a level of human supervision or regulation is needed to ensure a positive outcome, responsibility cannot be outsourced to AI. We are here to provide guidance, expertise, and frameworks for responsible AI implementation, thereby ensuring that these technologies contribute positively to society while mitigating potential risks and biases.

To know more, explore our innovative digital solutions or contact us directly.


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The UK is home to emerging technologies that have the power to revolutionise entire industries. From quantum to semiconductors; from gaming to the New Space Economy, they all have the unique opportunity to help prepare for what comes next.

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Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Head of Technology and Innovation, techUK

Rory Daniels

Rory Daniels

Programme Manager, Emerging Technologies

Tess Buckley

Tess Buckley

Programme Manager - Digital Ethics and AI Safety, techUK

Usman Ikhlaq

Usman Ikhlaq

Programme Manager - Artificial Intelligence, techUK

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Authors

Gareth Ricketts

Business Development, VE3