LOTI publishes guidance for local councils on using GenAI

The London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) has produced a collection of guides to support local authorities in using Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI).

Resources include a guide for local authority leaders and another aimed at all staff, as well as a guide designed specifically for council Chief Information Officers (CIOs), which was developed with AI software company Faculty.

In publishing these resources, LOTI aims to provide the basics of what GenAI is, how it might impact their council, and how their council can avoid and mitigate the risks of this technology. 

The CIO guide specifically sets out recommendations to help govern GenAI and ensure use cases are developed effectively and responsibly. Among these, it urges councils to introduce staff training and guidance on responsible uses of GenAI and emphasises the importance of ethical considerations, data privacy, transparency and trust - particularly if the technology is used in public facing services.

Additionally, council's digital and IT services are advised to account for future uses of GenAI, ensuring the necessary infrastructure and safeguards are in place for responsible uses. It also cautions leaders to think about how and when GenAI tools are appropriate, suggesting that they should only be used for certain types of tasks and operational decision-making. Judgement calls, where accountability is required, should still rely on humans. 

LOTI ran a public survey, interviewing council officers and other experts on AI, ran two roundtables and conducted desk research to create these documents.

It found that GenAI looks to be most impactful for local council when producing outputs, like text, audio, images and code; responding to natural language questions, so any officer or resident can use it; and understanding different types of data – useful given councils have large amounts of unstructured data in a large variety of formats.

State of play 

In putting together the guidance, LOTI conducted a ‘state of play’ survey on  with 37 respondents across local councils, to understand how local councils are currently thinking about GenAI. 

While there are some early adopters who are already experimenting with the technology to write documents, and to generate and check code, it is clear that this is still early days, with over a third of respondents not yet aware of GenAI being used in their organisations. 

Several respondents pointed out the limitations and potential risks of GenAI tools and noted that users should be aware of the tools’ ability to get it wrong or make it up. 

Others noted that if members of the public increasingly use GenAI to interact with their council, it could significantly increase the workload for local government employees. One local government representative even commented that “Ultimately, AI is going to drive an increase in work which can only be dealt with by AI.”

Another point made was that the use of GenAI to provide council services and support to vulnerable members of our community could have a negative impact because “...the biggest issue for constituents is the breakdown of a
relationship/communication between the people and the council/government.”

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