Espoo is developing ethical rules for artificial intelligence

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2018-10-15 14:47

The City of Espoo has expanded its artificial intelligence (AI) networks and will start developing ethical rules for AI development and use with its partners. Espoo aims to become the Finnish and global forerunner in ethical AI in the public sector.

One of the city’s new networks is the Artificial Intelligence Programme, led by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and commissioned by Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä. One of the programme’s key goals is the promotion of responsible AI, and it has launched an ethics challenge to further this aim. In just over a month, almost 40 organisations have signed up for the challenge. The majority of them are Finnish listed companies. In addition to the City of Espoo, participants from the public sector include the Finnish Tax Administration, Business Finland and the Population Register Centre.

Espoo is also involved in the Ethics Certification Program for Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (ECPAIS) launched by the world’s largest technical professional organisation IEEE. Espoo is one of the project’s founding members. The project aims to establish internationally recognised processes and certificates for the ethical use of artificial intelligence. The first certificates are expected to see daylight in 2019.

ECPAIS is led by Meeri Haataja, CEO of the Espoo-based company and chair of the Ethics Working Group of the Artificial Intelligence Programme. In addition to the City of Espoo and, ECPAIS members include Accenture, Combient, H5, Vega Systems, VERSES, City of Vienna and the Finnish Ministry of Finance.

The City of Espoo is also a member of another network led by, focusing on creating technical identifiers for AI. This should increase the transparency of each algorithm – a bit of code – by revealing where, how, by whom and for what use it has been developed.

“Identifiers for algorithms and the development of ethics in general introduce much-needed responsibility and transparency to the use of AI. For example, if the City of Espoo develops an algorithm, it may be able to monitor how it gets used,” says Tomas Lehtinen, Data Analyst Consultant at the City of Espoo.

Rules and transparency dissipate fear

The use and benefits of artificial intelligence are on everyone’s lips but many also associate AI with risks and fear, particularly because public administration – a holder of large amounts of client data – usually works with private companies to develop AI. Data protection and data security are, understandably, causes for concern.

“Municipal residents want to know how their information is used. Our response is to draw up ethical rules for AI and to openly communicate about them. This also reduces the reluctance of public sector experts to develop AI-supported services,” says Päivi Sutinen, Services Development Director at the City of Espoo.

By participating in the Artificial Intelligence Programme and the IEEE project, the Espoo continues its long-running AI development efforts. This spring, Espoo became a member of the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI). In the early summer, the city and its partner, the software and service provider Tieto, completed a large-scale artificial intelligence experiment whose aim was to build service paths by anticipating clients’ needs.

For further information

  • Päivi Sutinen, Services Development Director, tel. +358 46 877 2871,
  • Tomas Lehtinen, Data Analyst Consultant, tel. +358 43 826 9177,