Kitchener city council receives update on how AI could be used across the city

Kitchener city council gathered at Communitech on Monday to look at the exploration of using artificial intelligence within the city.

The special council meeting gave councillors an opportunity to learn more specifically about generative AI, such as ChatGPT, and some of its challenges, dangers and opportunities. No decisions were made at the meeting.

Jimmy Lin, a professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, gave the presentation to council. He said two of the biggest concerns when it comes to implementing AI is job losses and disinformation.

“It is premature to talk about loss of control, in my opinion, because it distracts us from problems that are already here today,” said Lin.

He added he has also been approached by the City of Waterloo to explore looking at using AI.

The Digital Kitchener Innovation Lab also gave an update on some of the prototypes they tested last year. The lab looks at emerging technologies and how they can be used at the municipal levels.

“In 2023, we spent a lot of time exploring some of these large language models and AI models to really get an understanding of how they work and to apply them to city applications,” said Courtney Zinn, the former director of the Digital Kitchener Innovation Lab.

Some of the prototypes include a chatbot to help with municipal codes and bylaws, a “local guide” where residents can interact with their community and an app that can take a picture of a sign and translate it into another language.

“We learned a lot about how much work there would be for the city to be able to deploy these things. But we got a good sense of what that work would be and where things are more challenging that others.”

She adds the city needs to leverage their technology governance to evaluate new technologies, engage with the community and develop infrastructure and data models that can support the use of AI.

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