It’s hard to predict if ChatGPT will live up to the hype. The first-of-its kind technology backed by Microsoft debuted in November 2022, followed a few months later by Google’s version called Bard. Like any other potentially disruptive innovation, it was welcomed by both enthusiasm and skepticism, but it quickly and indisputably became a hot topic and triggered conversations about Artificial Intelligence and how it impacts society and business.
Which benefits may ChatGPT bring to cities and local governments? Administration and finance may be the first departments to take advantage of it. In Vietnam, the HMC City Department of Information and Communications is encouraging researchers and scientists to apply ChatGPT to the state management system to streamline workflows and make procedures more efficient, also acknowledging it could contribute to the design of new services to better serve people and businesses. In the US, a new ChatGPT-based tool for municipal budgeting has just emerged from beta testing, ready for cities that seek help to produce their budget books, completed with figures and text narratives about spending.
But some cities are taking some steps forward in piloting ChatGPT applications. As reported by Cities Today, Singapore is using AI language models, such as those that underpin ChatGPT, to support civil servants in ordinary tasks such as crafting policy papers, summarizing news, answering citizen queries, or managing long documents. The tool was developed by Open Government Products, Singapore’s in-house team that shapes technology to solve public sector challenges, and proved to be effective in speeding up researching and writing processes, while ensuring consistency and quality of the output.
The first utility globally to use ChatGPT is the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, which announced a new application to improve customer support. It leverages ChatGPT’s ability to interact with users through natural language to better dialogue with them, providing quick and reliable answers to their enquiries. The technology is also being piloted to write programming code and solve coding problems.
Of course, ChatGPT isn’t without criticism and its use by public bodies raised attention about possible risks related to privacy and data protection, cyber security, and other potential misuse. The opportunities for tech companies are clear enough – and the BigTech rush may soon be tied by China’s giants: Beijing is supporting key firms to invest in an open-source framework to challenge ChatGPT and develop a rival platform.