City-County Council committee advances artificial intelligence proposal

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Indianapolis might soon begin studying the usage of artificial intelligence under a proposal that was passed by a City-County Council committee Tuesday evening.

Proposal 362, authored by Republican Councilor Michael-Paul Hart, would create a study commission on the city-county’s use of AI that would provide a report to the full council by July 2024. That report would include recommendations from experts and community members on how AI can be used to better serve Indianapolis residents and how the city can implement AI in a trustworthy and transparent manner.

It’s rare in the 19-member Democratic supermajority council that one of the five Republicans brings a proposal to the table, and rarer that it receives Democratic support. But the proposal from Hart, a senior consultant for a global software company, received unanimous approval from all nine councilors on the Rules and Public Policy Committee. The full council will consider it at the Monday, Dec. 4, meeting.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Hart told councilors the proposal was something he had been working on for six or seven months. Hart mentioned some potential usages of AI by the city, such as using it to increase efficiency processing tickets at the Mayors Action Center, conducting traffic studies and aligning the timing of stoplights in order to reduce emissions from idling vehicles.

“My vision is [for Indianapolis] to be the smartest city in America,” Hart said.

Artificial intelligence has become more commonly used by city governments. According to the National League of Cities, local governments as large as Boston and as small as Wentzville, Missouri, have implemented AI and issued  guidelines. New York City has established a lengthy artificial intelligence action plan.

Councilor Dan Boots, a Democrat representing District 3 on the north side, became a co-sponsor of the proposal during the meeting. He referred to his work as an attorney, calling the potential for AI “expansive and great,” but said he has seen “horror stories” in which the technology isn’t implemented correctly.

“It’s clearly time for the city to get on board with it,” Boots said.

Hart also said he wanted the commission to study ways in which AI could be used to improve police and emergency responses, potentially with usage in cameras and in dispatch. But he acknowledged that these uses could spur privacy concerns, such as those raised by the American Civil Liberties Union regarding some uses of police technology. Hart mentioned bringing the ACLU into the commission to deal with proactively address privacy concerns.

Collin Hill, chief information officer for Indianapolis and Marion County, spoke in support of the proposal.

“I think there’s efficiencies out there throughout the entire city-county that will dramatically improve results for residents and for employees within the city-county,” Hill said before echoing that there are potential pitfalls involving privacy.

Under the proposal, the study commission would consist of nine members consisting of three councilors appointed by the council president; one member appointed by the council minority leader; the director of  information technology for the city; three citizen members referred by the commission chair and appointed by the council president; and one citizen member referred by the council minority leader and appointed by the council president.

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