CAN AI BE A FAIR JUDGE IN COURT? ESTONIA THINKS SO
GOVERNMENT USUALLY ISN’T the place to look for innovation in IT or new technologies like artificial intelligence. But Ott Velsberg might change your mind. As Estonia’s chief data officer, the 28-year-old graduate student is overseeing the tiny Baltic nation’s push to insert artificial intelligence and machine learning into services provided to its 1.3 million citizens.
“We want the government to be as lean as possible,” says the wiry, bespectacled Velsberg, an Estonian who is writing his PhD thesis at Sweden’s Umeå University on how to use AI in government services. Estonia’s government hired Velsberg last August to run a new project to introduce AI into various ministries to streamline services offered to residents.
Deploying AI is crucial, he says. “Some people worry that if we lower the number of civil employees, the quality of service will suffer. But the AI agent will help us.” About 22 percent of Estonians work for the government; that’s about average for European countries, but higher than the 18 percent rate in the US.