Could AI Help Streamline Broadnax’s City Services?

Artificial Intelligence City Concept
Artificial Intelligence City Concept | Image by ismagilov/Getty Images

Local officials want to use artificial intelligence to make operations smoother and more efficient in the City of Dallas.

The use of AI could result in widespread improvements and enhanced efficiency throughout multiple departments, programs, and systems, according to a presentation to Dallas’ Government Performance and Financial Management Committee on Monday.

Unlike Google, whose AI image generator appeared to display anti-white bias, the officials in charge of AI implementation in Dallas want the technology to have foundational guidelines and governance prioritizing privacy and security.

“Quality data is the foundational piece of any AI program, and quality data is created through governance, policy, and training,” said Dr. Brita Andercheck, chief data officer for the City of Dallas.

The City’s current implementations and future use “must prioritize privacy, security, and the ethical use of data and AI,” she said.

Despite such concerns being raised over AI, Andercheck said the primary goal of the technology is to do things like “recognize patterns, make decisions, make judgments, and perform tasks like a human.”

“A nice kind of shorthand thing to keep in mind is that anytime you’ve got a process or a step that can be moved forward without a human being but with a machine, that is the base threshold for the AI we’re talking about,” she explained.

Dallas is already implementing AI, Andercheck said. The City is currently utilizing the technology to improve code enforcement and police strategies, to identify discrepancies in financial data, and to translate public meetings into multiple languages, among other things.

One area the City wants to see improved via AI is the local building permit process, which, under Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax, has historically suffered permit delays and periodic backlogs, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Dallas council member and committee chair Chad West said he plans to invite a Florida-based AI contractor to speak with Dallas’ Development Services Department in March to detail how cities in the Sunshine State are using AI to improve their respective permitting processes.

According to the presentation, an estimated 2% of cities in the U.S. currently utilize AI, with most still in the research and testing phase.

Andercheck said the California Department of Transportation has proposed generative AI tools to help California reduce traffic and make roads safer to travel. She also highlighted how the New York City Fire Department is testing AI to help emergency vehicles avoid traffic and roadblocks and how the U.S. government currently uses it for FOIA requests.

At the end of the day, Andercheck said it is pivotal to keep a human in the loop, particularly as technology advances and is deployed throughout the city.

She likened the importance of keeping people involved to a scene in The Hunt for Red October.

“There is this moment where they are looking for a submarine, and they’ve got a $40 million computer, and it’s saying this is not the enemy sub we are looking for,” she said. “But Seaman Jones, who has a lot of experience and expertise, says, ‘No, I really think that’s it.’ Fortunately, his captain says, ‘Relax, Jonesy, you sold me.’”

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