LocalGov Digital AI

A rendition of a room containing 8 people of various sexes and ethnicities dressed in casual clothing. They are working on building a piece of artificial intelligence. The room has large glass windows and outside a typical English town

It’s fair to say there’s a lot of interest in artificial intelligence at the moment, driven first by the novelty and ease of use of services like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and then the increasing integration of Microsoft’s Copilot with their other products.

We’ve all read doom-laden prophecies about huge swathes of the workforce losing their jobs, but also utopian predictions of universal basic income funding lifestyles of leisure for all, whilst AI toils away in the fields and factories.

Whilst I don’t suggest you rush out and order your robot butler just yet, it’s true to say that artificial intelligence, large language models, and machine learning have captured the imagination of local government digital teams and there’s a lot being done in this area right now.

For example in December 2023 a colleague and I ran a show and chat session showing some of my council’s work and I know there are similar things going on in tens of councils across the UK.

We’re at a pivotal moment, and in some respects it feels like the early days of the world wide web again as we’re still in the stage of research, experimentation, and development, and not doing digital by numbers (which I guess would be 0 and 1), unlike some transformation efforts in the public sector.

The difference this time around is we have the world wide web to communicate and share what we’re doing with others, and alongside more traditional face-to-face gatherings including local government’s first and biggest unconference LocalGovCamp, it’s never been easier for those working in different organisations to collaborate.

Although there are networks and groups already established, for example the Local Government Association’s AI Network, these often focus on the area of policy and ethics. 

Whilst there’s absolutely a need for a place to have that sort of discussion, I want to create a complementary space to share innovation and development around AI from councils, providing reusable examples backed up by practical support and discussion with digital practitioners working in local government.

Ultimately I’d like to emulate the great work Open Digital Planning, LocalGov Drupal, and Open Referral are doing, but at the very least if we can join up some of the great work going on independently around the county that would be of huge benefit.

I’ll be providing more details about this later in March, but if you have any thoughts or want to get involved in the creation of this, then please let me know by using the link below.