EU Citizens Engage in Discussions about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Public Administration at an ELI Webinar


On 25 November 2021, the second webinar in ELI’s series on the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) took place. Over 90 participants discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the use of AI in public administration and how to address the challenges resulting from the latter.

Member of the ELI Executive Committee Teresa Rodríguez de las Heras Ballell welcomed participants and briefly introduced ELI, the Reporters of the ELI project on AI and Public Administration (Marc Clément, Paul Craig and Jens-Peter Schneider) and the topic of the webinar. Marc Clément and Paul Craig went on to explain the project’s aims and set the scene by providing background information.

Most of the participants using the polling function indicated that they have some experience with Artificial Intelligence Technologies (AIT) or other Algorithmic Decision-Making Systems (ADMS) (23/42), while others were uncertain (11/42) or did not have any experience (8/42). Less participants had, however, experience with AIT and ADMS used in public administration (16/36), with others being uncertain (7/36) or having no experience at all (13/36).

Participants identified discrimination of certain groups of persons, non-transparent and non-explainable decision-making and risks concerning the right to privacy as key shortcomings of AIT or ADMS when used by public authorities. Conversely, faster decision-making, increased equal treatment of similar cases/enhanced control of biased decision-making and better decisions were considered as the most important potential benefits of AIT or ADMS when used by public authorities.

Participants were then asked to consider which measures could minimize risks caused by AIT or ADMS when used by public authorities. The three most selected options were impact assessments by public authorities prior to their deployment of AIT/ADMS, independent expert participation in such impact assessments and judicial review by courts of decisions taken or supported by AIT/ADMS, all of which are recommended by ELI’s Project Team, depending on the context in which AIT or ADMS is deployed.

Finally, the challenges for ensuring trustworthy/reliable use of AIT or ADMS by public authorities were discussed. Participants identified scarce human resources in public authorities, the lack of expertise in AI in Europe and scarce hardware resources in public authorities as the three most important ones.

A lively discussion ensued, as participants reflected further on the discussion and posed questions.

The collective conclusion was that providing information on the systems used in public administration (by way of an impact assessment which facilitates self-reflection of the authority implementing such a system), ensuring public participation and access to courts to challenge the implementation of such systems are of crucial importance in this context.

A report summarising the discussions and conclusions reached was elaborated on, in consultation with participants, and submitted to the CoFoE Presidency. You can read it here

The recoding of the webinar is available below.

ELI already organised a webinar in this series, on Climate Justice – New Challenges for the Law and Judges on 11 November 2021, and will organise another, on Business and Human Rights – Access to Justice and Effective Remedies on 30 November 2021.