A Consortium of Finnish organisations seeks for a shared way to proactively inform citizens on AI use

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2019-06-27 10:00

Six Finnish organisations have kicked off a project to standardise public organisations’ transparency and communications of the use of AI to citizens. The project, named “Citizen Trust Through AI Transparency”, will provide internationally adoptable guidelines on how to inform about public sector use of personal data and AI to the citizens.

The project participants are City of Espoo, City of Helsinki, Kela (the Social Insurance Institution of Finland), Finland’s Ministry of Justice, The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and Saidot (AI transparency software development company).

They will together

  • define what information citizens want to and have a right to know of the Finnish public sector AI
  • create guidelines on how this information should be communicated to the citizens.

Maintaining trust between citizens and administration

Transparency of citizen data usage and algorithmic decision-making is a widely recognised global challenge. AI systems and algorithmic decision-making are increasingly used in public administration to service citizens in their various life-events, however, people do not have access to sufficient information about what, by whom and how these decisions are being made. Hence, by offering standardised information and communication guidelines on personal data usage, AI systems and algorithmic decision-making, the project wishes to maintain trust between citizens and cities & governments.

The participant organisations’ expertise and interaction with citizens will be utilised to combine the regulatory, technological, ethical and citizen perspectives for a recommendation on shared practice. Real-life use cases and citizen feedback will be used to understand the future needs and current knowledge levels on the use of AI in the public sector. Citizen engagement is imperative for the project, hence people will be involved via interviews and workshops.

” We want to openly communicate to the citizens how and for what purposes their information is being used, and what are the decisions that impact their lives based on. This information must be easily accessible and relevant information for the residents must be communicated in a clear and understandable manner.”, says City of Espoo’s Data-Analytics Consultant, Tomas Lehtinen.

“In Helsinki, we discuss widely the use of AI, and the ethics of it. In collaboration with other cities, we work on the design of ethical principles for AI. When making use of AI, it’s essential to maintain trust. Openness and transparency help to build that trust. For the city, it’s essential that the services we provide are trustworthy – also in the digital environment. For this reason, conditions in personal data usage and other regulatory requirements are considered since the design phase. Although this requires a lot of work, it allows us to confirm that the new digital services are trustworthy, and that they’re secure to use.”, says Pasi Rautio, the Lead Development Coordinator of data, AI and robotization of City of Helsinki.

A benchmark for other cities and governments

The overall objective of the citizen project is to agree on a shared approach so that the same model can be taken into use widely across public sector organisations. Informing citizens in a standardised way will also improve the understandability of the information for the citizens.

Finland is one of the leaders in ethical AI development and is proud to share this knowledge internationally. This project is an excellent opportunity to set a benchmark and be an example for other European and North American cities and governments to adopt. The outcomes of the project will be licensed under Creative Commons. 

Project news can be followed on Twitter under the hashtag #CitizenTrustAI.

Project participants

City of Espoo
A networked Espoo comprising five city centres will be a pioneering responsible and humane city that is a good place to live, learn, work and do business in and where residents can have their say in matters. Espoo is also a forerunner in working with artificial intelligence in the public sector. The city uses artificial intelligence to develop even better public services.

City of Helsinki
Helsinki’s aim is to be the world’s most functional city and the best in making use of digitalisation. Helsinki aims to serve its citizens better by developing anticipatory and targeted services. New proactive services make use of AI, so to maintain and secure citizens’ trust in the city and its actions, we must develop these together with the users.

Finland’s Ministry of Justice
Finland’s Ministry of Justice contributes to the project by providing legal expertise on the questions concerning civic participation and the public nature of the actions by the authorities.

Kela is an independent social security institution in Finland. Kela has actively enhanced accountability, transparency and human approach in the use AI. This project is a natural step forward to our work. We want to proactively develop guidelines and simultaneously involve our customers to understand their expectations and needs for transparency in the use of AI.

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra 
“Citizen Trust Through AI Transparency” project is part of Sitra’s IHAN project for fair data economy. In the consortium project, Sitra provides support for cities’ development work.

Saidot is a Finnish software company that builds technology that enables AI to be trustworthy and transparent. Saidot provides the AI ethics advisory, design and technology necessary for the project’s implementation.

Additional information:

Meeri Haataja

CEO of Saidot

Chair of Ethics Working Group in Finland’s AI Program

Chair of IEEE’s Ethics Certification Program for Autonomous & Intelligent Systems


+358 40 7725010

Photo: Vilja Pursiainen / Kaskas Media