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ADVISORY COLUMN: SMALL BUSINESS

Yaneek Page | Leveraging AI for the national good

Published:Sunday | June 16, 2024 | 12:08 AM
In this January 18, 2024, photo, Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, Daryl Vaz, speaks on proposed changes for the transport hub while on a tour of downtown Kingston. Vaz recently created a firestorm over a proposed ban on ridesh
In this January 18, 2024, photo, Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, Daryl Vaz, speaks on proposed changes for the transport hub while on a tour of downtown Kingston. Vaz recently created a firestorm over a proposed ban on rideshare apps for public safety. Generative AI chatbot ChatGPT4 offered a different approach.

Can government officials and policymakers leverage artificial intelligence to enhance national outcomes? It is a question that’s becoming increasingly relevant and requires a decisive response. Recently, a firestorm of public frustration erupted...

Can government officials and policymakers leverage artificial intelligence to enhance national outcomes? It is a question that’s becoming increasingly relevant and requires a decisive response.

Recently, a firestorm of public frustration erupted when the minister of science, energy, telecommunications and transport hastily announced a ban on rideshare service apps in response to mounting concerns about passenger safety.

What was meant to be a swift, protective measure immediately backfired, with social media loudly registering their objections to and disagreement with the actions taken. Business owners and ride share service drivers were also vocal, lamenting the lack of consultation and the negative impact of the decision on their pockets and customers they serve.

The debacle exposed the pitfalls of a knee-jerk reaction to a deeply complex issue.

Within the current context of advanced digital transformation this incident highlights the value of using tools, like generative AI, to navigate complex societal challenges. One important question to consider is this: Would a more nuanced approach, leveraging trained AI models to analyse data, simulate outcomes, and support deep engagement with stakeholders have yielded a different outcome? I would say yes.

Let’s take, for example, my very limited test of this hypothesis using ChatGPT4 for a very basic simulation.

Here’s the prompt I provided and the response I received.

Prompt: Respond as a renowned global expert in effective national policymaking: As the ministry in charge of science, energy, telecommunications and transportation, would you immediately suspend rideshare services for the commuting public, giving no timeline for resumption, because of a rise in reported cases of sexual assaults and murders of passengers who use these services and after receiving a request from the police chief to do so? What outcomes could be expected if this action was taken without consultation with the operators of these companies, some of which are small businesses? Also consider that a large section of society relies on rideshare services, and there is currently limited empirical evidence linking unregulated rideshare apps to increases in sexual assaults or murders. Provide a reason for your answer.

ChatGPT4 response

What follows is the response from ChatGPT4:

As a renowned global expert in effective national policymaking, I would advise against immediately suspending rideshare services for the commuting public without thorough consultation and empirical evidence. While the rise in reported cases of sexual assaults and murders is deeply concerning and necessitates urgent action, a more balanced and strategic approach is essential to avoid unintended negative consequences.

Key considerations:

1. Public safety versus economic stability:

• Public safety: Ensuring the safety of citizens is paramount. However, a complete suspension of services without a clear alternative could lead to significant disruption and hardship for those who rely on these services.

• Economic impact: Many ride share operators are small businesses whose livelihoods depend on their daily operations. An immediate suspension without a plan for their financial stability could lead to economic distress and job losses.

2. Empirical evidence:

• Current reports indicate a rise in incidents, but there is limited empirical evidence directly linking unregulated ride share apps to these increases. Policies should be data-driven, and suspending services without solid evidence may not address the root cause of the problem effectively.

3. Stakeholder consultation:

• Engaging with ride share companies, law enforcement, public safety experts, and the community is crucial. This collaboration can help design effective safety measures and ensure that all perspectives are considered.

Expected outcomes of immediate suspension without consultation:

1. Disruption to daily life:

• A large section of society relies on ride share services for their daily commute. Immediate suspension would leave many people without reliable transportation, causing significant inconvenience and potentially impacting their ability to work or access essential services.

2. Economic fallout:

• Small businesses operating ride share services would suffer immediate financial losses, potentially leading to layoffs and closures. This would exacerbate economic challenges, especially in areas already struggling with economic stability.

3. Loss of public trust:

• Abrupt and unilateral actions can erode public trust in government. People expect thoughtful and well-communicated decisions, especially on issues impacting their daily lives.

4. Potential for increased unregulated activity:

• If formal ride share services are suspended, there may be a rise in unregulated and potentially unsafe alternatives as people seek other ways to meet their transportation needs.

Recommended approach:

1. Implement Immediate Safety measures:

• Introduce urgent measures such as enhanced driver screening, mandatory safety training, in-app safety features, and increased monitoring. These actions can help mitigate risks while allowing services to continue operating.

2. Engage stakeholders:

• Conduct consultations with ride share companies, law enforcement, and public-safety experts to develop a comprehensive and balanced approach. This ensures that policies are practical and widely supported.

3. Collect and analyse data:

• Invest in gathering detailed data on incidents to understand the root causes, and develop targeted interventions. This data-driven approach ensures that policies address the actual issues effectively.

4. Transparent communication:

• Keep the public informed about the steps being taken to enhance safety and the rationale behind these decisions. Transparency helps maintain public trust and compliance with new measures.

Conclusion: While the safety of passengers is a critical concern, an immediate suspension of ride share services without consultation and empirical evidence would likely cause significant disruption and economic harm. A more balanced approach that involves immediate safety measures, stakeholder engagement, data collection, and transparent communication is essential to effectively address the issue while maintaining public trust and economic stability. This strategic approach not only ensures the well-being of citizens but also upholds the principles of effective and thoughtful governance.

The possibilities

Remember, the response above is from a model that is untrained for our specific circumstances. Another caveat is that generative AI models aren’t perfect, and there are many considerations in employing them, including accuracy, relevance, privacy and security, ethics, bias, and many others.

Notwithstanding, I leave readers to judge for themselves the efficacy of ChatGPT4’s response, and whether there is a case for integrating advanced digital technology in decision-making.

This simulation barely scratched the surface of what is possible.

We could analyse safety and security data, simulate policy impacts, engage stakeholders, improve efficiency and effectiveness, enhance public communication, predict and manage crises, drive the development and implementation of innovative solutions, and better outcomes for constituents and the country.

One love!

Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, and a certified trainer in entrepreneurship.yaneek.page@gmail.com