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Artificial Intelligence: A New Player in the Heart of Cities to Boost Civic Engagement

  • Thursday, June 1, 2023

  • Far from being confined to traditional fields like health, industry, or finance, AI is now emerging as a new key player in cities, enhancing citizen participation and strengthening public trust. How? By using natural language processing to analyze and understand citizen feedback during public consultations. Let's explore together how AI, through its concrete applications, revitalizes civic engagement in our cities.

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    In recent years, technology has found its place in the urban arena, promoting increased citizen participation and strengthening public trust.

    Natural Language Processing (NLP), a sub-branch of AI that allows machines to understand and interact with human language, plays a key role in this process. Its application in processing public feedback during consultations is particularly noteworthy. Indeed, local governments, faced with the legal obligation to consult the public on a variety of municipal issues, are often overwhelmed by unstructured and difficult-to-analyze data.

    A 2019 Deloitte report established that "government agencies are inundated with unstructured and difficult-to-interpret data." Thanks to NLP, these organizations can extract relevant information from these data to inform policy development and decision-making.

    A notable initiative was the one led by the Privy Council Office of the Canadian government in 2016. They used NLP to analyze public comments on national security laws. This experiment paved the way for the use of NLP to facilitate civic engagement and participation.

    However, the use of this technology also raises crucial questions. Should they disclose the use of AI to filter and analyze public feedback? Transparency is essential to maintain public trust in the consultation process.

    It is in this context that Fluicity, pioneering platform in citizen participation, has integrated AI for optimal management and analysis of public comments. Faced with the challenge of the large volume of citizen proposals, Fluicity has implemented an AI module capable of automatically grouping proposals by themes. Using AI and NLP, this module analyzes comments and categorizes them into different themes, thereby facilitating the identification of trends and major concerns of the population. This automated process saves valuable time and simplifies data analysis. Local governments can thus quickly understand the aspirations of citizens and respond effectively.

    This hybrid approach ensures that civic engagement remains authentic and respectful of citizens, while leveraging the advantages of AI.

    However, Fluicity has taken care to keep the human at the heart of decision-making. The platform offers local administrations the opportunity to manually modify the thematic groups generated by AI. Thus, the final control remains in the hands of those who know their community best, while benefiting from the assistance of AI.

    Fluicity perfectly illustrates how AI can be used to improve the efficiency of consultation processes while maintaining human responsibility in decision-making. This hybrid approach ensures that civic engagement remains authentic and respectful of citizens, while leveraging the advantages of AI.

    In the end, AI is a valuable resource for strengthening civic engagement and public trust. However, its use must be guided by transparency and human interaction to ensure its acceptability and long-term effectiveness.