Estonia is trying to use AI in justice

Original author: Eric Niiler
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Government is usually the last place to look for IT innovations, or new technologies like artificial intelligence. But Ott Welsberg may possibly succeed in changing your opinion on this matter. He is a 28-year-old graduate student and director according to Estonia, and is leading the introduction of AI and MO in this tiny Baltic country into the services provided to citizens of the country , which number 1.3 million.

“We want the government to be as economical as possible,” says the thin, glasses-wielding Velsberg, an Estonian citizen working on his dissertation at Umeå University in Sweden, which focuses on the use of the Internet of things and sensor readings in government services. The Estonian government hired Welsberg last August to start a new project to introduce AI to various ministries in order to accelerate the provision of services to residents of the country.

He says AI will implement is critical. “Some people worry that if we reduce the number of officials, the quality of service will suffer. But AI will help us with this. ” About 22% of Estonians work for the government; for European countries this is an average, but it exceeds 18% in the United States.

Siim Sikkut, Estonian Information Director, launched several AI-based test projects in 2017, the year before he decided to hire Welsberg. Welsberg says Estonia has implemented AI or MO in 13 different places where the algorithm has replaced officials.

For example, inspectors are no longer checking farmers who receive government subsidies for haymaking every summer. Satellite images received by the European Space Agency every week, from May to October, are fed with a deep learning algorithm that was originally developed at the Tartu Observatory. Images are superimposed on a field map whereby farmers receive subsidies so that these places do not turn into forests.

The algorithm evaluates each pixel of the image, determining whether a given section of the field is skewed. Feeding livestock or partial mowing can confuse image processing; in such cases, the inspector leaves the place. Two weeks before the final mowing date, the automatic system notifies farmers by e-mail or SMS, including a link to the satellite image of the field in the message. The system saved € 665,000 in its first year of operation, allowing inspectors to travel less in the fields and focus on other enforcement issues, Welsberg says.

Another machine-learning application processes the resumes of people who have lost their jobs and looks for employers for them. 72% of people who got a job using this system remain working after 6 months - before the introduction of a computer system, this figure was lower and amounted to 58%. In the third example, children born in Estonia are automatically enrolled in school at birth, so that parents do not need to enroll manually in the queue, or call up with school principals. The system works by automatically sending records from hospitals to local schools. She doesn't need AI, but she shows the proliferation of automatic systems.

In the most ambitious of the existing projects today, Velsberg and his team, at the request of the Estonian Ministry of Justice, are developing a “judge judge” who can make decisions on small requests, the amount of which does not exceed € 7,000. Officials hope that the system will help clear the queue out of cases, accumulated by judges and court clerks.

The project is in an early phase of development, and is likely to launch in late-year testing mode, starting with a debate on contracts. Theoretically, the two sides will be able to upload documents and other information relevant to the case, and the AI ​​will make a decision, which can then be challenged by a human judge. There are many more details to deal with. Welsberg says the system may need to be tweaked after feedback from lawyers and judges.

Estonia is not the first to try to cross AI with the law, although perhaps it will be the first to give the algorithm the right to make decisions. In some US states, algorithms offer the duration of a criminal sentence. A British chatbot DoNotPay a few years ago helped challenge 160,000 parking fines in London and New York. Tallinn law firm Eesti Oigusbüroo provides free legal assistance via chatbot and generates simple legal documents for sending to collectors. She plans to expand her legal aid service by the end of the year, intending to find lawyers for clients in Warsaw and Los Angeles, said company director Arthur Fedorov.

The idea of ​​a robot judge can work in Estonia, in particular, because its 1.3 million citizens already use electronic state identification, thanks to which you can get many electronic services, for example, sending tax returns, or voting in elections.

Government databases are interconnected using the X-road digital infrastructure, which facilitates data exchange. Estonian citizens can also check who exactly received information about them on the government digital portal.

Estonia’s transition to digital government services was not without glitches. Outside experts found vulnerability in 2017in the Estonian system of identification cards, which led to rather unpleasant consequences; it was fixed, and the cards [almost 750,000 pieces] were replaced. However, government officials claim that there has not been a single major data leak in the country since the country began switching to digital in the early 2000s. In 2016, more than two-thirds of adults in the country sent various documents to officials via the Internet, which is almost twice the average for Europe.

“Access to the most private and confidential things is not with the government, but with banks and telecommunications companies,” says Tanel Tammet, an IT professor at Tallinn University of Technology. Tammet is a member of the Estonian government’s AI implementation team, which is due to release a report on this project in May, and to offer 35 more AI-related demonstration projects by 2020.

David Engstrom of Stanford University, an expert on digital government, says that today, Estonian citizens may be able to trust their government with their digital data, but all of this can change if one of the AI-based decision-making systems suddenly goes wrong.

Some agencies in the United States, such as the Social Security Administration, use AI and MO to speed up the sorting and processing of data, and the Environmental Protection Agency uses them to determine which industries need to be checked for environmental pollution. However, Engstrom says that collaboration between the different departments of the federal government in the field of AI is too slow, mainly because each agency has its own database format, and data is not so easy to transfer between them. “We have not reached that level yet,” he said.

Engstrom with a team of students studying law and computer science at Stanford studythe question of how best to use AI in US government agencies. Soon they will give a presentation to the Administrative Association of the United States, an independent federal agency that has received recommendations for improving administrative processes.

He does not see opportunities for the appearance of a robo-judge with AI in the US in the near future. There is no national identity card system in the United States, and many Americans fear the “all-seeing government.” “The proper legal proceedings are prescribed in our Constitution, and she has something to say about the fully automatic decision-making by any government agency,” said Engstrom. “This can be an obstacle even if there is a possibility of appeal to a person.”

Nevertheless, Engstrom believes that the time will come when AI assistants will be able to issue judges relevant laws, precedents and all the relevant information necessary for making a decision. “AI promises a more consistent approach to solving tasks than the current one,” he said. “And perhaps an AI-controlled system will work more accurately than a system where people make decisions.”

Its disadvantage is that the quality of AI will depend on the quality of its implementation. For example, algorithms that offer terms of imprisonment have already been criticized for bias against blacks.

“You also have to worry about the bias about automation,” says Engstrom. The more decisions machines make, the less often people will make their expert contribution to the system, he says. "This is one of those frightening things about which privacy advocates and proponents of a quality government are worried, seeing how the state is gradually shifting to digital."

But for now, Estonian officials like the idea of ​​AI, which can solve simple disputes, and leave more time for animated judges and lawyers to solve more complex problems. The introduction of AI in public services "will allow us to specialize in what will never be available to cars," said President Kersti Kaljulajd at a recent North Star AI conference in Tallinn. “I want to specialize in being a sympathetic and warm person. And for this, our AI must be safe, and this security must be provable. "

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