A Consortium of Finnish organisations seeks for a shared way to proactively inform citizens on AI use

Six Finnish organisations have kicked off a project to standardise public organisations’ transparency and communications of the use of AI to citizens. The project, named “Citizen Trust Through AI Transparency”, will provide internationally adoptable guidelines on how to inform about public sector use of personal data and AI to the citizens.

The project participants are City of Espoo, City of Helsinki, Kela (the Social Insurance Institution of Finland), Finland’s Ministry of Justice, The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and Saidot (AI transparency software development company). They will together:

  • define what information citizens want to and have a right to know of the Finnish public sector AI
  • create guidelines on how this information should be communicated to the citizens.

Maintaining trust between citizens and administration

Transparency of citizen data usage and algorithmic decision-making is a widely recognised global challenge. AI systems and algorithmic decision-making are increasingly used in public administration to service citizens in their various life-events, however, people do not have access to sufficient information about what, by whom and how these decisions are being made. Hence, by offering standardised information and communication guidelines on personal data usage, AI systems and algorithmic decision-making, the project wishes to maintain trust between citizens and cities & governments.

The participant organisations’ expertise and interaction with citizens will be utilised to combine the regulatory, technological, ethical and citizen perspectives for a recommendation on shared practice. Real-life use cases and citizen feedback will be used to understand the future needs and current knowledge levels on the use of AI in the public sector. Citizen engagement is imperative for the project, hence people will be involved via interviews and workshops.

We want to openly communicate to the citizens how and for what purposes their information is being used, and what are the decisions that impact their lives based on. This information must be easily accessible and relevant information for the residents must be communicated in a clear and understandable manner”, says City of Espoo’s Data-Analytics Consultant, Tomas Lehtinen.

"In Helsinki, we discuss widely the use of AI, and the ethics of it. In collaboration with other cities, we work on the design of ethical principles for AI. When making use of AI, it’s essential to maintain trust. Openness and transparency help to build that trust”, says Pasi Rautio, the Lead Development Coordinator of data, AI and robotization of City of Helsinki.

A benchmark for other cities and governments

The overall objective of the citizen project is to agree on a shared approach so that the same model can be taken into use widely across public sector organisations. Informing citizens in a standardised way will also improve the understandability of the information for the citizens.

Finland is one of the leaders in ethical AI development and is proud to share this knowledge internationally. This project is an excellent opportunity to set a benchmark and be an example for other European and North American cities and governments to adopt. The outcomes of the project will be licensed under Creative Commons. 

Project news can be followed on Twitter under the hashtag #CitizenTrustAI.