The white paper “Artificial Intelligence at the service of citizen” realized by AgID and presented on 21 of March in Rome to the government and to policy makers is the first official document that shall consider AI as a national and public issue that can refer the daily life of all citizens. Before being officially submitted, the white paper has been made available with a public consultation, Alessandro Vitale, CEO of Conversate and member of the AgID’s task force that prepared this document, explains the recommendations contained and the challenges that lie ahead.
With what targets did you realise the White Paper and to whom is it actually addressed?
It is primarily geared to policy makers with the objective of promoting the development of the artificial intelligence knowledge and its application in public administration. The first part of the document, focused on the main challenges that our country faces, is of general interest, the second part contains suggestions addressed directly to Government and to policy makers. The AgID’s White Paper is fully-fledged the first document in Italy focused on artificial intelligence. Other countries, like France and China, already defined a national AI strategy in the past months, the White Paper is a first step and can help Italy quickly move in this direction.
Which are the Italian challenges about AI in public administration and which one is the hardest to win?
We’ve identified nine challenges: ethics, technology, skills, role of data, legal context, accompanying the transformation, preventing inequalities, measuring the impact, and the human being. The hardest one is the challenge of finding people with the appropriate skills in this sector, because most of people educated in Italy have gone abroad to work. All of this happened also because Italian companies are coming from behind in investing in Big Data and AI. Preventing inequalities is important too: artificial intelligence in public administration should make it easier for all citizens to access digital service, without excluding anyone, particularly not the least prepared to use it; a strong focus is also on not introducing new inequalities, like potential biases in AI algorithms.
How startups and companies with expertise in this field can make contributions?
Good examples of collaboration between companies and PA or universities already exist. As well as contributing to the skills increase, companies should help public administration understand how to manage AI once it goes live. Indeed, we have to consider also the problems which may arise at the production stage, when systems are running, how to monitor AI to understand if it behaves properly and how to solve critical as soon as possible.
Antonio Samaritani, General Director of AgID, presenting the White Paper explained that, dealing with AI, the important thing is to create the first practices without waiting for the best ones. This is true for public administration or also for companies?
The process is the same for both. A change of attitude is needed because AI systems are very powerful but make mistakes, they learn from examples and are just as good as the examples they saw in the past, and when you start a new project they may have seen just a few. Both for businesses and for public administration a cultural shift is necessary to accept that these systems are not perfect and they can’t significantly improve unless you test them in real life situations. To help experiment and build experience, AgID has made available EUR 5 million for projects in which the artificial intelligence is at the service of citizen, projects that should be in line with the recommendations in the white paper. Together with defining policies, in Italy is important to start doing something practical in order to gain experience and competences, which can become the foundation for future ambitious projects.