CNCounty News

NACo forms AI exploratory committee

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Key Takeaways

The time it took for the mobile phone to reach 100 million users was 16 years. For the internet, it was seven years. ChatGPT, on the other hand, is a different story – one not only of remarkable speed in end-user adoption, but one that serves as a testament to the rapidly advancing presence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our world today. The ChatGPT service, which can best be summarized as a chatbot utilizing computing power to mimic human-like intelligence in generated responses, reached 100 million global users in only two short months.

While the age for Artificial Intelligence or AI for short, started over a decade ago, it has now reached a more mature state.

So what is AI, anyhow? AI represents the next step in computing power and capability, where the technology utilizes a generative model to “learn” and perform activities that can mirror human intelligence. Far more than a merely playful service in the case of querying ChatGPT on trivial topics, AI technology is poised to offer real-world, problem-solving applications through the medium of accelerating computing power.

To address this emerging technology, NACo recently announced the formation of the AI Exploratory Committee, whose goals will include assessing the state of AI and how AI policies, practices and potential use relate to county governance and operations. The AI Exploratory Committee will be composed of 15 elected and appointed county officials, county policymakers and department heads, as well as state association representatives and affiliates.

The AI Exploratory Committee is chartered to assess both the benefits and risks associated with the rapidly adapting technology and explore how counties should be prepared to respond in national, state and local discussions about the technology.

“This exploratory committee will help us maximize opportunities and minimize risks as we leverage this technology to benefit our residents,” said Travis County, Texas Judge Andy Brown, co-chair of the committee.

Although the breathtaking technology has awed the world since the debut of ChatGPT in November 2022, the ChatGPT debut only represents the beginnings of how the generative technology can be applied.

“By leveraging AI, we can make data-driven decisions to tackle local issues, from public health to environmental management,” said Palm Beach County, Fla. Mayor Gregg Weiss, co-chair of the committee.

The adaptability that AI technology offers can include an incredible amount of time savings and productivity in repetitive tasks, improved data analytics and research and faster constituent services.

County leaders recognize that, like emerging technologies of the past, there will be inherent risks to mitigate and manage over time as innovation drives forward adoption to the technology.

It will remain imperative for counties to closely monitor AI innovations and applications in the short-term as well as the long-term.

The AI Exploratory Committee will formally meet for the first time at NACo’s 2023 Annual Conference and commence on a yearlong term to conclude in the summer of 2024. Throughout the year, there will be updates and various guidance for local government. In the interim, NACo has produced a Tech Brief for county technology leaders.


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