P2 Artificial intelligence in public services

Panel Chairs:
Bram Klievink, Albert Meijer, Miriam Lips, Ines Mergel and Jae Moon

Corresponding Chair:
Bram Klievink, a.j.klievink@fgga.leidenuniv.nl

The digitalization and datafication of society lead to enormous amounts of data, generated by people (e.g. social media), devices (e.g. phones, cameras) or assets (e.g. sensors). Increasingly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used to leverage these data sources to improve effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness of the public sector and strengthen public management. There is much enthusiasm as to the functional benefits since AI technologies are said to increase the capacity of public sector organisations for delivering public services. Automating repetitive tasks would free up valuable time of civil servants. AI-supported insights could support public safety, detect fraud, help the judiciary, make inspections more targeted, or aid the management of assets in infrastructure or utilities.

However, there are also numerous valid concerns concerning the use of AI in the public sector. Public values, for example, may be threatened by discriminatory algorithms and privacy infringements. AI could enhance dependency on technology that is not transparent to outsiders. Furthermore, many public organisations are only taking their first steps towards using AI, and face challenges related to personnel management, the organisational embedding of AI-expertise, and a gap between AI-experts and decision-makers.

Empirical research into the use of AI in public management is limited and our theoretical understanding of emerging AI-facilitated organizational practices is limited. As algorithms become embedded within public organizations, the emerging patterns, choices regarding their implementation, and the benefits, risks and challenges regarding their use require academic research. We need to develop a strong empirical and theoretical understanding of the transformation of public services through the use of AI.

The panel welcomes empirical and theoretical papers on AI in public services but is also open to more normative and reflective work on public values and ethics. We aim to engage in an academic debate on the use of AI for public services, specifically on the organizational patterns, opportunities, challenges and effects in a public governance context.