A question from Cllr Jayanti Patel, who is shaping up as one of the more incisive members of the Scrutiny Committee, elicited the revelation that the Council has a pilot project using artificial intelligence to assist in answering complaints from residents.
Its use would be part of the council's digital transformation programme where residents will be expected to go on-line as much as possible, athough Muhammed Butt assured residents that telephone, email and calling into the Civic Centre would still be possible.
The committee were told by a senior officer:
As part of the Digital Strategy we are looking at AI, There are a number of ethical issues around all of it. Our first venture isto the AI world is to pilot the development of an AI tool that will take a complaint, read the complaint, investigate all of the systems to draw out all the information about that complaint, and then compose a response tht is empathetic, that answers all the questions and would meet all of what we expect to be a good standard of response.
That would not just go off to the individual [complainant]. It would go to an officer to double check that the information is accurate and correct.
We should have the first prototype built by the end of the month. It is an AI product that would connect to our systems and we are doing it in a very controlled way. If it works it would be deployed in July 2024 at some point.
Cllr Tatler chimed in to say that AI is still very new and Brent was one of the first councils to make sure that ethics was built around it:
There are still a lot of unknowns and we don't want to lose the human element of how we deal with residents, so it is absolutely right that we do this bit by bit rather than go full swing into digital systems.