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Helsinki trials AI and automation as part of its drive to digital services

Trials were based on ideas submitted by employees and mayor Jan Vapaavuori said they also represent a shift in thinking to an operating culture more conducive to experimentation.

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Helsinki wants to use digitalisation to improve the daily lives of citizens
Helsinki wants to use digitalisation to improve the daily lives of citizens

The City of Helsinki is carrying out trials to explore how artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation can be utilised in its services.

 

Earlier this year it completed its second campaign of “agile trials” in the City’s Experimentation Accelerator, which tested 10 ideas submitted by city employees for the use of AI and automation.

 

Digitalisation of services

 

The starting point for digital development is to facilitate the daily lives of Helsinki residents through the digitalisation of services and to help customers find services more efficiently than before. The same applies to City employees: digitalisation expedites work through the automation of routine tasks.

 

City personnel submitted a total of 60 trial suggestions for the two campaign rounds, 17 of which progressed to the trial phase. The latest campaign involved a variety of trials ranging from the quality monitoring of student information to a chatbot that can handle matters related to business trips.

 

“I believe that artificial intelligence, robotics and data are at the core of future developments,” said mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori. “They will also impact the services provided by the City of Helsinki to a substantial degree. The most important thing about these trials is to gain new ideas that can then be scaled to suit the production of various City services.

“We hope lessons learnt from these trials help us to avoid expensive and long projects that fail to meet actual needs. We also want to renew our culture and policies and make the city a bit more agile”

“The trials also represent a shift in thinking whereby the aim is to make the City organisation’s operating culture more conducive to experimentation.”

 

The proposals that progressed to the trial phase received €10,000 in funding for implementation in cooperation with corporate partners. The City aims for genuine agility in the trials, and the target for proceeding from an idea to execution is 90 days. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the trial campaign’s arrangements were entirely virtual.

 

”Through agile trials, we can learn to understand how we can use artificial intelligence to build even better digital solutions for the residents and our own employees,” said Helsinki’s chief digitalisation officer Mikko Rusama.

 

“We hope that the lessons learnt from these trials help us to avoid expensive and long projects that fail to meet actual needs. We also want to renew our culture and policies and make the city a bit more agile.”

 

The City’s latest trials focusing on AI and robotic process automation sought answers to a variety of questions, such as the following:

  • can AI help with the management of employment?
  • can AI benefit work shift planning?
  • can AI help gain a more realistic and accurate situational picture of traffic emissions in Helsinki?
  • can AI help with the analysis of performance reviews to enable the development needs of employees to be supported better than before?
  • can robotic process automation be used to facilitate the quality monitoring of student information?
  • can a chatbot guide and advise business travellers?
  • what is the benefit of a neural network-based AI identifying signatures in PDF documents?

“The trials have also confirmed that it is often not necessary to replace an entire work phase with a robot. In many cases, robot assistance is enough,” said project manager Ville Meloni.

 

“The trials also provide us with valuable information about the limitations in the data collected by the City. In this context, we sometimes notice that it may not be feasible to automate work tasks in a way that emulates how a person would complete them. Instead, it may be best to redesign the entire process.”

 

The City has been working with a number of corporate partners in its experimentation accelerator activities, including Ai4Value, Aureolis, Deloitte, Digital Workforce Services, Helsinki Intelligence, Houston Analytics, Gofore, Lekab, Microsoft, Reaktor, SAS, Siili, Silo.ai and Sofor. The implementation partners for the trial project were Gofore, Lekab, Reaktor, SAS and Siili.

 

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