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AI / Municipal government / Universities

Johns Hopkins’ GovEx and Bloomberg Philanthropies launch platform to advance generative AI for public services

Both Baltimore and DC are participating in the City AI Connect project.

Beth Blauer (right), associate vice provost of public innovation at Johns Hopkins University, joins Amy Edwards Holmes (center), executive director of the Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence, and Amanda Daflos (left), executive director of the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation, at the new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center in DC on Oct. 25. (Courtesy Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence)
Update: This article has been updated to clarify that the City AI Connect platform's denial of verification was decided by GovEx, not Civic Roundtable, as well as that city officials can access the platform (10/30/2023, 5:14 p.m.) 

A recent global survey of 80 mayors aimed to gauge interest in using generative AI for public services. Although Baltimore and DC were not originally included in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ initial research, they are now both poised to harness the potential of this technology with the launch of City AI Connect.

Introduced to an audience of over 100 mayors in DC at Bloomberg CityLab 2023, City AI Connect, according to a press release, serves as a platform for mayors and their cities to trial and enhance the use of generative AI for better public services.

During Bloomberg Philanthropies’ two-day CityLab, a discussion took place with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and covered a broad spectrum of topics. These included the Red Line project, his early internship in Mayor Kurt Schmoke’s office and his self-description as “data-driven and heart-led.” Moore also teased a new place-based initiative, in its development phase with philanthropic partners, aimed at flooding neighborhoods that have been chronically and historically neglected with resources, Governor Moore hinted at an upcoming announcement.

Moving from its own development phase within the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University into full implementation, City AI Connect aims to become a hub for government leaders to brainstorm, create and test possible applications of generative AI in collaboration with their counterparts in different cities.

“From predicting disease spread to preventing homelessness, generative artificial intelligence can radically improve the innerworkings of cities, and introduce new opportunities to deliver for residents,” said Beth Blauer, Associate Vice Provost for Public Innovation and founder of the Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, in a release. “As this technology moves rapidly, City AI Connect will provide local governments with an accessible, vibrant hub through which they can socialize learnings, build partnerships, and transfer implementation knowledge—increasing their ability to adapt tools to local needs—alongside peers driving towards this same mission worldwide.”

The software employed for City AI Connect is a collaborative platform for public services known as Civic Roundtable. To gain access to the City AI Connect Community, users must first create and verify their accounts. We attempted to do so and initially faced uncertainty due to not holding positions as city mayors or related officials. Within an hour of requesting access, a decision was reached by GovEx:

“We regret to inform you, however, that we are unable to approve your request. Membership is limited to city-level government officials and a limited number of employees of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ affiliated organizations, supporting the platform. Occasionally, we’ll be sharing insights from the community on our public website. We warmly invite you to stay connected with us through this channel.”

During CityLab, another conversation explored why cities need to build up their digital ecosystems to bring their governments to the 21st century.

 

The aforelinked global survey of mayors revealed interest in using generative AI for public service, but noted barriers such as “lack of awareness” and “technical expertise.” According to the release, city leaders will use social networking, digital forums, virtual events and a resource repository to collaborate with experts from Bloomberg Philanthropies and GovEx at Hopkins. This initiative could help expedite city service improvements like food stamps, housing vouchers and driver’s licenses.

Companies: District of Columbia / Johns Hopkins University / City of Baltimore / Bloomberg Philanthropies

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