AI & local governments: Benefits & risks of ChatGPT

Sectors of the Canadian economy are progressively adopting artificial intelligence (AI), and local governments are no exception. 

From budgets to land planning to roadwork, local governments rely on data and information to make decisions. This is exactly what AI solutions and technologies require to function.

ChatGPT, a popular generative AI solution, is rapidly being adopted and used for administrative tasks due to the efficiency benefits its offers. It can produce usable draft documents (e.g., letters to residents, briefings) in seconds, and perform and compile research on complex topics that might otherwise take hours to complete.

For municipal administrators, ChatGPT offers the potential to ‘do more with less, faster’, but using it carries considerable risk. Among the risks:

  • Data privacy – all user interactions with the tool are tracked and logged by ChatGPT. Therefore, users should be mindful what potentially sensitive or private information they enter as it could be made public or inadvertently shared (Note: private versions of the tool are available for a fee).
  • Data retention – while ChatGPT has an option for users to ‘delete’ their account and associated data, it is unconfirmed as to whether interactions with the tool and its logs are ‘truly gone forever’ and will stay out of the public domain.
  • Potential for bias – in addition to being subject to errors, the outputs of ChatGPT can be geared toward ‘giving you what you want to hear’ and not just presenting the facts. In other words, it aims to please.

Artificial intelligence solutions offer municipalities a very compelling value proposition, so early adoption and experimentation is encouraged. However, risk management should be practiced along with checking AI's work every so often.

For more information, please contact danb [at] (Dan Blackburn), Senior Director of Growth & Innovation.