New CRC to Study Artificial Intelligence in Public Services
By Alysha A. Cunningham
Adegboyega Ojo is the new Canada Research Chair in Governance and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Carleton University.
The Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) recognition is awarded by the Government of Canada to outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields.
The focus of Ojo’s CRC research is the development of governance mechanisms for trustworthy AI-enabled public services.
“The adoption of AI in the public sector could boost productivity, enable the delivery of personalized public services and support targeted policy interventions,” explains Ojo. “But without effective governance, it could also create new biases and amplify existing discriminations, especially when used for automated decision-making.”
Citizens have most likely interacted with these AI systems through services such as 24/7 customer service chat bots.
Public services also use AI for automating routine tasks, identifying anomalies in service requests and supporting decision-making on cases with financial impacts.
For example, government social protection agencies use machine learning systems to determine eligibility for financial social assistance and other benefits.
“Questions such as how to avoid reinforcing structural discrimination against minorities and marginalized groups or how to nudge human agents towards more responsible and fairer decisions are fundamental when using AI-augmented decision systems,” Ojo says.
Building effective AI governance in government agencies is important yet challenging. It requires an interdisciplinary approach like the one Ojo provides.
“My research experience and training equip me with the capability to lead a team of interdisciplinary researchers to provide concrete solutions to some of the emergent issues in AI governance,” he says.
Ojo has a PhD in AI and a background in computer science. His experience also includes working in the areas of software engineering and social science.
Through this seven-year CRC appointment, Ojo will be specifically investigating how to create an effective governance environment that will provide the necessary organizational structures, risk management processes, incentives, and support for government agencies to acquire and operate AI solutions or services responsibly.
“The CRC appointment provides a platform to work with the brightest doctoral and postdoctoral researchers to tackle the very important problem of AI governance in the public sector,” he says. “It is also a great opportunity for making a major societal impact by removing the barriers and unlocking the huge potential of AI adoption in government.”
Ojo joined Carleton’s Faculty of Public Affairs in July 2022 where he also studies how digital and data technologies can be used to support innovation in government institutions and address societal challenges in the areas of sustainable cities, reducing social inequalities, building stronger public institutions and patient-centred healthcare.
Chairholders improve Canadians’ depth of knowledge and quality of life, strengthen the country’s international competitiveness, and help train the next generation of highly skilled people. See Carleton’s full listing of Canada Research Chairs.