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The Civic AI Lab

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1. General

Category

SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

SDG 4: Quality Education

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG 10: Reduced Inequality

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

SDG 13: Climate Action

SDG 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

SDG 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

Category

Other

Please describe Other

The Lab works on 5 domain specific projects: education, health, welfare, mobility and environment as well as, two domain-overarching projects: one on the intersection of AI and Law, the other on the intersection of AI and policy.

2. Project Details

Company or Institution

The project is a 5-year public-public collaboration between the University of Amsterdam, the Free University of Amsterdam, the City of Amsterdam, and the Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs.

Project

The Civic AI Lab

General description of the AI solution

The Civic AI Lab is a collaboration between City of Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) and University of Amsterdam (UvA). Civic AI Lab focuses on the application of artificial intelligence on 5 domain specific projects: education, health, welfare, mobility and environment as well as, two domain-overarching projects: one on the intersection of AI and Law, the other on the intersection of AI and policy.
Although AI offers great possibilities, there are also disadvantages to deploying AI. Image recognition systems, for example, were typically trained using images of people with a lighter skin tone and therefore were not as accurate when recognising those with darker skin tones. Insurers also use mathematical models that identify postcodes where there is an increased risk of burglary. However, this results in higher premiums for the residents of these neighbourhoods. As a result, this increases inequality in a city.
Civic AI Lab examines examples of such friction so that in the future AI will promote equality and deliver fair opportunities, overcoming its negative side effects. The lab also serves as an information point for residents and businesses who have questions about new technologies and the ethical and inclusive use of them. Furthermore the lab acts as an information point to make residents aware of both the opportunities and risks of AI. With events such as meetups and seminars the Lab tries to increase public participation on fair AI technology development.

Website

https://www.civic-ai.nl/

Organisation

Civic AI Lab

3. Aspects

Excellence and Scientific Quality: Please detail the improvements made by the nominee or the nominees’ team or yourself if your applying for the award, and why they have been a success.

The Civic AI Lab is the culmination of years of theoretical and practical AI experience in various disciplines and domains. The Lab is part of the National Innovation Center for AI (ICAI), an ecosystem of knowledge institutions, the businesses (multinational, SMEs, start-ups), NGO’s and government who jointly develop AI technologies in labs. It is a 5-year public-public collaboration between the University of Amsterdam, the Free University of Amsterdam, the City of Amsterdam, and the Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs.
Civic AI’s lab vision is a society in which citizens from all walks of life, including those at the margins of society, have equal opportunity to contribute to and benefit from society. Its mission is to develop AI technology that promotes economic and social human rights, such as the right to health, education and employment, while respecting fundamental human rights, like privacy, non-discrimination and equality. Specifically, the lab has two goals. The first is to uncover existing social inequalities with the help of AI. The second goal goes beyond just uncovering inequalities: to create new path ways to equal opportunity through AI.
Since its launch in July 2020, the lab had a significant impact on AI for Social, locally, nationally and internationally. The lab has become the flagship project of Amsterdam’s AI Technology for People coalition which will invest €1 billion in the coming decade in cutting-edge AI research programmes, attracting the world’s best research talent, and in developing, guiding start-ups and spin-offs. The founding director of the Lab was recognized nationally for his work to empower people and create a more just and inclusive society with help of AI technology. In 2001, The Good AI, an ecosystem helping companies, policymakers, scholars achieve UN’s SDGs using fair and responsible AI, recognized the lab as one of 14 exemplary research centers worldwide.

Scaling of impact to SDGs: Please detail how many citizens/communities and/or researchers/businesses this has had or can have a positive impact on, including particular groups where applicable and to what extent.

The Civic AI Lab has 5 domain specific projects: education, health, welfare, mobility and environment. In addition, the lab has two domain-overarching projects: one on the intersection of AI and Law, the other on the intersection of AI and policy. Each project aims to create insight into inequality of opportunity in the (digital) city and to increase the action perspective on equality of opportunity with the help of new AI technologies. For each project, a PhD student conducts 4 years of research and AI technology development under the supervision of an interdisciplinary team of (AI) scientists. Uses cases and data are provided by cities, government and civil society.
In addition, all projects and PhD students contribute to socio-technical and ethical-legal validation of AI concepts developed by AI start-ups and companies. This is done in collaboration with Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE), which organizes challenges and coordinates cooperation with startups and companies. Other activities include: organizing master classes for start-ups, expert and business communities and collaborating and sharing experiences with related initiatives: within Amsterdam, nationally and internationally (e.g. joining European initiatives such as ELLIS).
Moreover, Civic AI Lab serves as an information point for residents and businesses with questions about new technologies and their ethical and inclusive use. The lab organizes information programs to increase AI awareness among municipal officials, civil servants and citizens. Information programs focus on technical topics such as machine learning and deep learning and on the socio-economic impact of AI on cities and citizens, including potentially harmful impacts of AI, such as discrimination and exclusion of citizens and population groups. The long term goal: increase engagement and participation of citizens.

Scaling of AI solution: Please detail what proof of concept or implementations can you show now in terms of its efficacy and how the solution can be scaled to provide a global impact ad how realistic that scaling is.

The Lab works on 5 domain specific projects: education, health, welfare, mobility and environment as well as, two domain-overarching projects: one on the intersection of AI and Law, the other on the intersection of AI and policy. The framework we approach each project is based on the 4 dimensions of sustainable change in thinking about and working on AI. By applying this framework in cases provided by cities, government and civil society, we strive to create insight into inequality of opportunity and to increase the action perspective on equality of opportunity with the help of new AI technologies.
We aim to use as much open source code and data sets as possible. For city data GDPR is applicable for the processing of personal data. Transparency and inclusivity is key to our design choices and the tools/software we create will also be publicly available, open source.
Currently we are working with various partners, that understand the increasing need for socially aware AI technology. Our PhD students contribute to socio-technical and ethical-legal validation of AI concepts developed by AI start-ups and companies, while we also act as an information point for citizens. We focus on a local level and specifically within the city of Amsterdam but we believe that we could provide our knowledge and expertise in new user communities. The Civic AI Lab so far has managed to create a big network of partners, collaborators and co-creators (universities, researchers, public servants) and has provided support in startups and companies that want to focus on the design of socially aware AI systems. Being part of the Global Top 100 will help the Lab to increase this network and provide expertise to a bigger community.

Ethical aspect: Please detail the way the solution addresses any of the main ethical aspects, including trustworthiness, bias, gender issues, etc.

Civic AI Lab uses a unique framework to ensure that AI technology is developed and used in full respect of our values, fundamental rights, equity, rule of law and democracy. This framework consists of 4 dimensions sustainable change in thinking about and working on AI:
1) purpose & plan: AI systems should be developed with public values as explicit optimization goals, rather than as (vague) preconditions
2) people & perspectives: AI should be developed in teams of people with different personal backgrounds and from different disciplines. Diversity and Interdisciplinarity are necessary to make AI inclusive and keep it up to date.
3) past & present: is about what data serves as the basis for development of AI. Completely representative data may never be attainable, but it should be continuously pursued. We focus on continuously taking into account possible sources of bias
4) process & procedures: how is AI technology designed, developed and deployed. Is there transparency and cooperation? Are citizens – customers, patients, consumers etc – involved in the AI co-creation process, and appreciated as a self-purifying force of self-learning AI systems.
It is increasingly clear from AI practice, that sustainable change toward AI for social good, requires changes in these dimensions. The Civic AI Lab puts this in practice. In the first place by ensuring the right composition of the lab. The lab is a team of technologically-aware and socially-engaged people that includes scholars, civil servants, policy-makers, law practitioners, students and interns. We value integrity and inclusivity, transparency, trust, commitment and cooperation. In the second place by exemplifying these values through our services to academia, business, and civil society. The team combines technological, legal and ethical perspectives and expertise ensuring that the development of AI goes together with well-founded legal and ethical insights into the interpretation of concepts such as fairness, responsibility, and explainability.

CONTACT

International Research Centre in Artificial Intelligence
under the auspices of UNESCO (IRCAI)

Jožef Stefan Institute
Jamova cesta 39
SI-1000 Ljubljana

info@ircai.org

ircai.org

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