New Paper Explores Artificial Intelligence for Citizen Services and Government

August 14, 2017
Hila Mehr
Hila Mehr, Author of "Artificial Intelligence for Citizen Services and Government", Technology and Democracy Fellow

Cambridge, MA – Hila Mehr, a Technology and Democracy Fellow with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School released a white paper highlighting how government can adopt artificial intelligence (AI) to better citizen services. In her paper, Artificial Intelligence for Citizen Services and Government, Mehr discusses how AI has the capacity to transform government by reducing administrative burdens, helping to resolve resource allocation problems, and taking on significantly complex tasks.

“Whether renewing a driver’s license, receiving health and human services support, or engaging with elected representatives, citizens routinely interact with 20th-century systems with their government while benefitting from 21st-century systems in their everyday lives,” Mehr writes. AI, she argues, is an area government can actively anticipate and plan for when upgrading their legacy systems.

Mehr writes about the important role that AI can play in the delivery of constituent services, and focuses on how this technology can be better used by governments to field information inquiries from the public. She describes how Surrey, British Columbia is using AI to answer questions about city services; how algorithms are used to classify and direct citizen petitions in Mexico; and how in Japan AI is being piloted to help parliament member offices respond to citizen inquiries.

Specifically, Mehr calls on government agencies to consider six strategies for applying AI to their work:

  • Make AI a part of a goals-based, citizen-centric program.
  • Get citizen input.
  • Build upon existing resources.
  • Be data-prepared and tread carefully with privacy.
  • Mitigate ethical risks and avoid AI decision making.
  • Augment employees, do not replace them.

Mehr concludes that with increased interaction with AI, and by building upon existing modernization efforts, government delivery of citizen services could soon mirror the ways citizens interact with technology in their personal lives.

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance, the Innovations in Government Program, and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit

Contact Information:

Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Harvard Kennedy School