Is AI the reply for extra higher authorities providers? | EUROtoday

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By Peter Garcia, Technology Reporter

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Governments are exploring whether or not AI may give dependable recommendation

Long earlier than ChatGPT got here alongside, governments have been eager to make use of chatbots to automate their providers and recommendation.

Those early chatbots “tended to be simpler, with limited conversational abilities,” says Colin van Noordt, a researcher on using AI in authorities, and primarily based within the Netherlands.

But the emergence of generative AI within the final two years, has revived a imaginative and prescient of extra environment friendly public service, the place human-like advisors can work all hours, replying to questions over advantages, taxes and different areas the place the federal government interacts with the general public.

Generative AI is subtle sufficient to present human-like responses, and if educated on sufficient high quality knowledge, in concept it might cope with all kinds of questions on authorities providers.

But generative AI has turn into well-known for making errors and even nonsensical solutions – so-called hallucinations.

In the UK, the Government Digital Service (GDS) has carried out assessments on a ChatGPT-based chatbot referred to as GOV.UK Chat, which might reply residents’ questions on a variety of points regarding authorities providers.

In a weblog submit about their early findingsthe company famous that nearly 70% of these concerned within the trial discovered the responses helpful.

However, there have been issues with “a few” circumstances of the system producing incorrect info and presenting it as truth.

The weblog additionally raised concern that there is perhaps misplaced confidence in a system that may very well be incorrect a few of the time.

“Overall, answers did not reach the highest level of accuracy demanded for a site like GOV.UK, where factual accuracy is crucial. We’re rapidly iterating this experiment to address the issues of accuracy and reliability.”

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Portugal is testing an AI-driven chatbot

Other countries are also experimenting with systems based on generative AI.

Portugal released the Justice Practical Guide in 2023, a chatbot devised to answer basic questions on simple subjects such as marriage and divorce. The chatbot has been developed with funds from the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

The €1.3m ($1.4m; £1.1m) project is based on OpenAI’s GPT 4.0 language model. As well as covering marriage and divorce, it also provides information on setting-up a company.

According to data by the Portuguese Ministry of Justice, 28,608 questions were posed through the guide in the project’s first 14 months.

When I asked it the basic question: “How can I set up a company,” it performed well.

But when I asked something trickier: “Can I set up a company if I am younger than 18, but married?”, it apologised for not having the information to answer that question.

A ministry source admits that they are still lacking in terms of trustworthiness, even though wrong replies are rare.

“We hope these limitations will be overcome with a decisive increase in the answers’ level of confidence”, the supply tells me.

Colin van Noordt Colin van Noordt, a researcher on the use of AI in government and based in the NetherlandsColin van Noordt

Chatbots should not replace civil servants says Colin van Noordt

Such flaws imply that many consultants are advising warning – together with Colin van Noordt. “It goes wrong when the chatbot is deployed as a way to replace people and reduce costs.”

It would be a more sensible approach, he adds, if they’re seen as “an additional service, a quick way to find information”.

Sven Nyholm, professor of the ethics of artificial intelligence at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilians University, highlights the problem of accountability.

“A chatbot is not interchangeable with a civil servant,” he says. “A human being can be accountable and morally responsible for their actions.

“AI chatbots cannot be accountable for what they do. Public administration requires accountability, and so therefore it requires human beings.”

Mr Nyholm additionally highlights the issue of reliability.

“Newer types of chatbots create the illusion of being intelligent and creative in a way that older types of chatbots didn’t used to do.

“Every at times these new and extra spectacular types of chatbots make foolish and silly errors – this can typically be humorous, however it may possibly doubtlessly even be harmful, if individuals depend on their suggestions.”

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Estonia’s government is leading the way in using chatbots

If ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLMs) are not ready to give out important advice, then perhaps we could look at Estonia for an alternative.

When it comes to digitising public services, Estonia has been one of the leaders. Since the early 1990s it has been building digital services, and in 2002 introduced a digital ID card that allows citizens to access state services.

So it’s not surprising that Estonia is at the forefront of introducing chatbots.

The nation is currently developing a suite of chatbots for state services under the name of Bürokratt.

However, Estonia’s chatbots are not based on Large Language Models (LLM) like ChatGPT or Google’s Gemini.

Instead they use Natural Language Processing (NLP), a technology which preceded the latest wave of AI.

Estonia’s NLP algorithms break down a request into small segments, identify key words, and from that infers what user wants.

At Bürokratt, departments use their data to train chatbots and check their answers.

“If Bürokratt does not know the answer, the chat will be handed over to customer support agent, who will take over the chat and will answer manually,” says Kai Kallas, head of the Personal Services Department at Estonia’s Information System Authority.

It is a system of more limited potential than one based on ChatGPT, as NLP models are limited in their ability to imitate human speech and to detect hints of nuance in language.

However, they are unlikely to give wrong or misleading answers.

“Some early chatbots compelled residents into selecting choices for questions. At the identical time, it allowed for better management and transparency of how the chatbot operates and solutions”, explains Colin van Noordt.

“LLM-based chatbots usually have way more conversational high quality and may present extra nuanced solutions.

“However, it comes at a cost of less control of the system, and it can also provide different answers to the same question,” he provides.

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