Will artificial intelligence be the most powerful accelerator of innovation in public institutions?
RIPM – Vol. 6 – no. 1 and 2 | 2023
Deadline for submission: 20 December 2023
Deadline extended to 20 January 2024 (no. 1) and 20 July 2024 (no. 2)
Special Focus Overview
The Special Focus is the traditional in-depth thematic focus of Rivista Italiana di Public Management (RIPM). The thematic focus has a fundamental space in the journal because it is aimed at determining a privileged scope of attention on a current issue, necessary to promote reflections on public management issues and inspire a debate among scholars.
RIPM Special Focus intends to confirm one of the founding principles of the journal: to create an arena of reflection to direct, in a specific field identified from time to time, the most innovative research and paradigmatic representation with a multidisciplinary approach. One of the specific characteristics of RIPM is, in fact, to express a predictive view aimed at intercepting current and paradigmatic strands of research to be analyzed through a broad gaze and the convergence of a wide variety of scientific, research and analytical approaches, including, among others: economic, legal, political, philosophical, sociological and anthropological.
Special Focus Objectives
For years now, citizens, often without being fully aware of it, have been interacting with artificial intelligence (AI) in their everyday lives but also in approaching public services. The question to ask is when, and how soon, artificial intelligence will massively pervade the way we live.
The broader and more challenging thoughts concern the potential future use of AI. Because the present shows that its uses are continuously and rapidly expanding, more than public institutions are able to predict and manage.
“I believe that Europe, together with its partners, must show the way to a new global AI framework, based on three pillars: protective measures, governance, and driving innovation.” These are the words spoken, on September 13, 2023 in the Strasbourg hemicycle, by President von der Leyen during the State of the Union 2023.
Initially, the use of AI in public administration (PA) was interpreted as a way to save (better allocation of resources), perform complex actions, standardize processes, and govern time. These are all areas that for decades, despite the continued introduction of management techniques, have not found any definitive solutions.
AI-supported techniques have been used for some time now. For example, to draft documents, fill out records, answer questions from citizens. In particular, the relationship between PA and citizens, in some cases even the co-generation of the final public service is already a fact and certainly a leap forward in innovation and alignment with stakeholder PA management models.
RIPM intends to start a reflection, which will be developed in the two issues of the year, around the main potential and challenges of artificial intelligence.
In this regard, what was already argued in the editorial of the first issue of the Journal, five years ago, is now confirmed: “one way, in order to find solutions to the questions about the ability of the public system to project itself into a society of the future, is to build an open confrontation on these issues but above all through new proposals, by developing tools for dialogue and analysis.” With regard to a strategic issue such as artificial intelligence for which the State and its organizations must prepare themselves, scholars and public administration professionals, as well as AI experts, are invited to contribute with this Special Focus to devise new interpretation patterns based on a multidisciplinary and systemic approach, to open avenues for research and action.
Despite the obvious opportunities to create “innovation leaps” in production processes and in packaging the final public service, artificial intelligence will not solve the systemic problems of public institutions. On the contrary, it could potentially exacerbate problems related to service delivery, privacy protection, and the stakeholder relationship system within civil society if not implemented rigorously and predictively.
Public offices, with a sophisticated program of predictive choices aimed at using AI, should consider these aspects in a stepwise manner, taking into account certain areas: rigorous consideration of the available resources; planning for the best allocation of human resources that will necessarily change with the use of AI; considering that all techniques for the use of AI presuppose the use of data and information; making AI part of a decision-making and programmatic process based on policy, program and goal setting; attach a central role in all decisions to the effects that the use of AI has, or will have in the long term, on citizens; and involving citizens in the co-generation of the service.
These points of attention rest upon certain fundamental substrates like privacy and ethics, which, on the other hand, if carefully managed, harmoniously regulate the relationship between PA, citizens, and civil society.
Despite the definitional uncertainty, the current national and EU regulatory and institutional framework as well as the Italian administrative case law offer sound references for assessing opportunities, implications and risks related to the implementation of artificial intelligence in public administration (e.g., in terms of organization and administrative action, redesign/increase in the quality of services, decision-making support, etc.). In addition, the analysis of artificial intelligence systems already deployed in the public sphere (in particular, for what tasks, what objectives, in what areas), even experimentally and not just in Italy, can be a valuable point of observation of the processes at work and of the ability of public institutions to innovate.
While it is up to the authors to explore such topic, the Special Focus suggests some, non-exhaustive, channels of reflection to investigate:
– Ethical challenge of AI integration (e.g., issues such as data quality and neutrality, accountability of algorithm users, transparency and openness of algorithms);
– National regulatory framework (critical aspects, e.g., transparency and access to information on technologies/algorithms in use, privacy protection and security of personal data) and governance of adoption processes (in-house or outsourced) of artificial intelligence solutions by individual public administrations;
– Transparency and access to information on technologies / algorithms in use, privacy protection and personal data security;
– Consolidation of skills, recruitment/professional development and the role of training;
– Measuring the impact of the introduction of new technologies in the public administration;
– Enhancement of human capital;
– Forecasting the various types of AI applications, current and future;
– Proposing uses of artificial intelligence in PA’s delivery of services to citizens, with a focus on citizen demands;
– Data collection and processing as decision supports;
– Collaboration between public administration, industry, research centers and universities.
These are some possible trajectories for the Special Focus contributions, aimed at guiding scholars, experts and managers.
Contributing authors are invited to express an innovative – even comparative – framework of research and study, enhancing a plurality of positions: for example, by experimenting with contributions by several authors from different scientific disciplines when their contribution expresses a collaborative and incisive synergy in the proposition of ideas, models and keys to interpret the topics under discussion.
How to submit a paper
Authors wishing to join the Call – Special Focus – should send the paper citing the code (RIPM – Vol.6 – nos. 1 and 2 | Special Focus) according to the editorial rules, to the e-mail address: email@example.com
The deadline for submission is December 20, 2023
Deadline extended to 20 January 2024 (no. 1) e 20 July 2024 (no. 2)
The format of the paper must be 10,000 words, including tables and figures, excluding bibliography, using the attached template. For the editorial rules, template and FAQ, please see the section: