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How the city of Longmont utilizes artificial intelligence

This technological avenue is viewed as a valuable opportunity to expedite and enhance the realization of Longmont’s broader strategic vision
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From streamlining development to navigating the complexities of data analytics, the city of Longmont is navigating uncharted waters with cautious optimism, emphasizing transparency, efficiency and safeguarding citizen data as cornerstones of its artificial intelligence, or AI, strategy. 

As the city pioneers this transformative crossroad, the narrative unfolds with lessons to learn, strategic alignments and a commitment to progress through the lens of innovative technological integration — harnessing the power of AI to elevate municipal services. 

Lynn Yarmey, manager of data & analytics, joined the city in late 2022 to lead the newly launched Office of Data & Analytics. David Bell, director of Parks and Natural Resources has been working with data and numbers for decades.

“Our goal is to best use technology to provide as much value to the public as possible,” Yarmey said.

Longmont is actively exploring the integration of AI tools to enhance processes, with applications ranging from document analysis and standard operating procedure, or SOP, drafting to ensuring inclusivity in job-related aspects.

As of now, Longmont doesn’t have specific AI applications that are customized or tailored exclusively for the city, but the integration of other AI applications into city operations or services is currently underway. 

“We use many third-party services and platforms to support our services, some of which are working to include AI tools. Individually, staff members are testing out AI applications to meet specific department needs,” Yarmey said.

In the pursuit of Longmont’s overarching goals outlined in the Envision Longmont plan and aligned with the Council’s priorities, the city is strategically considering the integration of AI. The extent to which they can safely integrate AI into city work depends on how the technology evolves.

“Our goal is to best use technology to provide as much value to the public as possible, while proactively adding protections against current technical weaknesses,” Yarmey said.

This technological avenue is viewed as a valuable opportunity to expedite and enhance the realization of Longmont’s broader strategic vision, advancing efficiency in the process. The city envisions using AI as a catalyst to achieve overarching objectives more efficiently.

“Often a blank piece of paper can be a significant impediment to starting a project.  Utilizing AI can break the ice and get projects started and finished much quicker. If AI is also used to iterate, it can result in a better product,” Bell said.

Recognizing both the immense potential and significant challenges associated with AI, the city of Longmont is addressing the legal, ethical and accurate dimensions. In its role as a municipal government, Longmont is strategically managing the incorporation of AI, adopting an approach that carefully balances innovation and governance. The city maintains a vigilant awareness of emerging challenges and solutions, spanning local, state and federal levels. 

“Longmont adopted formal Data Privacy and Data Protection policies as part of our Data Governance Plan in early 2023. These policies extend our longstanding cybersecurity practices and policies to cover how we handle sensitive data specifically. To help staff apply these policies in the context of generative AI, we are finalizing an AI Guidance for Staff document as well,” Yarmey said.

Although city-wide AI initiatives are not yet in effect, Longmont has established connections with various external entities delving into both the innovative and governance aspects of AI. 

Noteworthy engagements include participation in virtual workshops on AI policy for municipal governments through the Results for America What Works Cities program, local training sessions hosted by the city of Fort Collins and engagement in privacy panels organized by the Future of Privacy Foundation.

“I am a member of many organizations focused on advancements in data privacy, ethics and innovation. I maintain a list of resources on equity, privacy, AI and other topics for all staff who work with data across city departments and am facilitating a working group of AI-knowledgeable staff to develop the AI Guidance document mentioned earlier,” Yermey said.     

In the realm of municipal AI implementation, the city of Longmont imparts valuable lessons and best practices derived from its experiences including a strict admonition against inputting anything confidential into AI prompts. 

Notably, Longmont refrains from using AI for translation work presently, emphasizing its commitment to clear and integrity-driven communication across languages with residents and visitors, recognizing the current limitations of AI in meeting this specific need.

Additionally, the city underscores the importance of meticulous verification for all products stemming from AI use. This verification process involves a thorough review by individuals knowledgeable about the content to ensure the output remains unbiased, accurate and appropriate.