Do you know about The Rise of AI in Parliamentary Power?

Generated by AI

By Ibrahima Sall

The Italian President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, in his 2023 end-of-year statement, stressed the importance of Artificial Intelligence in updating the social, economic, and professional landscapes. In the report “Using Artificial Intelligence to Support Parliamentary Work” of February 2024, the words of Anna Ascani, Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, highlighted the revolutionary potential of this technology in actively involving citizens in the decision-making sphere. These visions serve as inspiration for more democratic, transparent, and informed governance.

Digital Transformations and Challenges: AI in Parliaments

Currently, globally, the use of Artificial Intelligence in Parliaments is limited and fragmented, involving no more than 10% of legislative institutions. Approximately 4% of AI functionalities are dedicated to data management, citizen relations, activity reporting, and document research, while the remaining 6% focuses on legislative drafting, including research and regulatory coordination. However, there is a significant delay in the adoption of these technologies, often used episodically and without coordination. Furthermore, there is a lack of a defined strategic communication framework, compromising the effective transmission of complex parliamentary activities and communication with citizens. Indeed, direct interaction with voters is almost ineffective, giving a significant opportunity for AI to improve democratic engagement.

Challenges and Opportunities in Implementing AI in Parliaments

In the report “Expression of Interest for the collection of proposals for the use of generative artificial intelligence” for the Chamber of Deputies, a clear finding emerged: the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the digitization of Parliaments, accelerating the process of digitalization. This impulse has triggered several critical factors, including internal and external relations and the adoption of advanced technology systems. The application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Parliaments promises to further improve this context, with particular emphasis on “linked open data“. This expectation is based on the vision of making parliamentary data accessible and interpretable through new technologies, paving the way for a broader and more effective use of the information produced and used by Parliaments. 

Yet, there are several challenges to address. Some countries still need to embark on this path, often due to gaps in basic IT infrastructure, legislative systems, and data governance. These obstacles can be overcome with the support of inter-parliamentary networks, which can provide technical and organizational guidance to go beyond these challenges. An enlightening example comes from Brazil, where the Senate has presented a bill to regulate AI, defining citizens’ rights and establishing provisions for the oversight of AI systems. Furthermore, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies has adopted an advanced strategy to use AI through the “Ulysses” platform, powered by Machine Learning (ML) technologies. This platform enables the public to actively participate in the legislative process, offering an intuitive and personalized interface. Furthermore, the use of AI-based chatbots and computer vision techniques makes interaction with Parliament more accessible and efficient, allowing citizens to express their opinions, support or oppose legislative proposals, and comment on them, with some proposals receiving up to 30,000 comments.

Case Studies: Key Issues and Collection of proposals from the Chamber of Deputies

The use of artificial intelligence in parliaments has received substantial criticism. Among these, the risk of being vulnerable to cyber-attacks raises concerns about data security. Moreover, the potential increase of digital inequality is worrying, since it may marginalize already underserved communities. There is also concern that excessive reliance on AI could erode human control in political decisions, creating questions about accountability. Considering these critical points, the Documentation Committee of the Chamber of Deputies presented a report on the possible use of AI to support parliamentary work, outlining principles and challenges. 

Nevertheless, the fundamental issue regarding the creation and management of AI systems for Parliament remains open. To address this challenge, the Italian academic community, and the scientific community more broadly, have been involved through an invitation to submit projects by May 31st, 2024, to optimize timing and facilitate the consultation of parliamentary work using generative AI. These projects aim to provide tools for retrieving parliamentary acts and comparisons, demonstrating a tangible commitment to the responsible integration of AI in the parliamentary context. The Evaluation of Proposals will be conducted by the Oversight Committee with the support of a technical-scientific commission. The Announcement of Winners will be decreed by July 2024 with an Award Ceremony: €10,000 for each proof of concept and €5,000 for the call for ideas.

Conclusion

In the heart of democracy, the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Parliaments not only promises to transform governance but also to strengthen the bond between citizens and institutions. Although adoption is still in its early stages, recent progress brings us closer to a future where democratic participation is amplified by AI. The critical issues highlighted, along with the commitment of the Italian scientific community, inspire confidence in a tomorrow where technology fosters open and inclusive communication between Parliaments and citizens.

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