NYC unveils AI Action Plan, detailing the planned use and governance of evolving tech
“This is not the time to run away, but it’s a time to run towards, and properly govern, AI,” Mayor Eric Adams said during an Oct. 16 press conference
By Jule Pattison-Gordon
NEW YORK — New York City wants to embrace artificial intelligence.
Mayor Eric Adams today announced the release of an Artificial Intelligence Action Plan intended to guide responsible city use and governance of the quickly evolving tech.
At the same time, the city is actively adopting some more established AI use cases: Adams also announced a new small-business website featuring an AI-powered chatbot that can answer visitors’ questions.
“This is not the time to run away, but it’s a time to run towards, and properly govern, AI,” Adams said during an Oct. 16 press conference.
The AI Action Plan includes actions like developing an AI risk assessment and project review process, publishing initial AI policies and guidance, tracking emerging tools and use cases and engaging the public, per the document. Adams said the city is prioritizing security, transparency and responsibility.
The city expects to complete 27 of the plan’s 37 action items within the next year, according to CTO Matt Fraser.
“This will be city’s first instance where we take a big, broad emerging technology and create a framework for how it’s deployed across the entire city, and we work collaboratively to drive outcomes,” Fraser said during the press conference.
The announcement comes at a time when many local governments are trying to identify a responsible approach and set firm or interim policies to guide their use of technologies like AI and generative AI.
At the same time, New York is also releasing a new tool for small-business owners, that Adams said can “give you the sense of the kind of AI-based tools we think can improve city government today.”
The newly launched beta version of the MyCity Business Services chatbot (MyCity chatbot) leverages AI to help provide residents information related to starting or operating a business in the city.
Entrepreneurs looking for answers to their questions about licenses, permits or other matters often have to sort through an array of city websites, go in person to find help or spend time waiting on 211 and 311 lines.
The MyCity Business Service chatbot aims to solve that. It draws information from across 2,000 web pages, sparing business owners having to scroll through all these themselves to find answers, Adams said. To prevent misinformation, the bot is restricted to pulling answers to information from trusted sources — rather than pulling from the wider Internet. Currently, those sources are limited to information published by the NYC Department of Small Business Services. The city also warns users to verify the answers.
The bot will also work with the city’s recently launched Funds Finder, a one-stop-shop online marketplace for small businesses looking for loans, grants and other funding options, said Commissioner for the Department of Small Business Services Kevin Kim. A chatbot ensures 24/7 support, he added.
One column lists examples of queries for the tool, like “I’d like to start a new cafe and bakery in Manhattan.” The next column lists tool capabilities including " trained to provide you official NYC business information” and “only responds to English questions for now.” The final column lists warnigs or “limitations” like “may occasionally produce incorrect, harmful or biased content.”
The tool won’t be stealing anyone’s jobs, Adams added, likening the introduction of the chatbots to the introduction of calculators — making work easier for staff, rather than replacing them.
An internal development team led the creation of the MyCity chatbot, with support of outside partners, Fraser said. The chatbot interface comes from Microsoft, underpinned by OpenAI.
As a safety measure, the city ensured that with the chatbot, “any information that went into it was containerized, so that no one else would get access to it,” Fraser said.
Conversations with the chatbot will not be connected to a user’s MyCity account, according to the city. The conversations will be stored only for 30 days and potentially reviewed to help improve the tool. After that, they will be deleted.
MyCity is a system intended to help residents more easily access services and benefits. Its first phase officially launched in March 2023 to support child-care benefits. The expansion into small-business services marks phase two.
Click below to view the full press conference.
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