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AI Assistant Training for Swedish Public Sector Underway

Monday, May 20, 2024

Employees in three municipalities are now engaged in training an AI-driven assistant for the public sector. The project is led by AI Sweden, the national center for applied artificial intelligence in Sweden.

"We have a couple of hundred routines and guidelines that employees need to adhere to, and the documents are located in different collaboration rooms and folders. They cannot access the documents via their phones today. We, as method developers, receive calls daily with questions about what applies or where to find different documents. It should be easy to do the right thing, and it is not as it is today. The digital assistant will make a big difference for the employees here," says Gina Johannisson, method developer in Kungsbacka municipality.
A picture showing Gina Johannison, Maria Oresjö and Alexendra Knowles working on their laptops

In the foreground, Gina Johannisson is sitting next to Maria Öresjö, with Alexandra Knowles, also from Kungsbacka municipality. They are training the assistant together with Anna Lokrantz from AI Sweden, who is at the far end of the picture. Photo: Kungsbacka municipality

The project, A shared digital assistant for the public sector, is a collaboration between Swedish authorities, municipalities, regions, and the business sector, coordinated by AI Sweden. The aim is to promote national collaboration on AI for text tasks and create conditions for joint solutions in the public sector.

"Based on the routines and guidelines we have input into the database, the AI assistant is now being trained to answer various questions. Later, employees from home care and home nursing will test the assistant to see if we need to train it on additional tasks. It’s important that they get the answers they need and that it supports them in their daily work," says Gina Johannisson.

By involving staff from, for example, home care, the models will become relevant and effective for the specific tasks in each specific area. In-home care, this includes a tool that makes it easier for staff to find information in the collected documentation.

"Employees in the organizations play the most crucial role in developing a digital assistant for the public sector. To develop AI tools that truly make a difference and create value, more than just technical expertise is required. It takes solid knowledge and understanding of the specific areas where the technology will be applied. We need to combine domain knowledge and technical knowledge to create tailored and value-creating AI solutions," says Jonatan Permert, project manager at AI Sweden.

Jonatan Permert

Jonatan Permert, project manager at AI Sweden.

Gina Johannisson describes the change she hopes for:
“Our employees will be able to get answers directly in their phones and when they are with the patient/care recipient. It will also make a big difference that employees receive quick responses in simple language, as they do not have the time to sit and read long routines or guidelines. This will lead to improved quality and safety in care and support, as well as an improved working environment for employees in health and social care. As health and social care face a major challenge in meeting the needs as our patient numbers increase, we need to find more efficient ways of working, and the digital assistant is a step in that direction,” she says.

The Swedish public sector faces several challenges in the coming years, with staff shortages being one of the most central. According to forecasts from Sveriges Kommuner och Regioner, 410,000 people will need to be recruited by 2031.

Increased use of artificial intelligence is one way to reduce the need for recruitment, by finding new ways of working that increase both efficiency and quality in business processes. According to an estimate published by DIGG, the Agency for Digital Government, in 2019, AI has the potential to save SEK 140 billion per year in the public sector.

"It is incredibly exciting and educational to be part of the project. Being involved from the start and laying the foundation for joint AI solutions in the public sector is really cool. A joint digital assistant will be an important tool for current and future challenges in health and social care," says Jenny Fermby, Tjörn municipality.

A picture of Jenny Fermby

Jenny Fermby, Tjörn municipality

The training currently taking place in Tjörn, Kungsbacka, and Gothenburg involves home care staff creating answers to questions that will serve as examples for the language model to learn from. The next step is to use this training as the basis for actual AI services used by the staff.

"This can involve more general text tasks, such as simplifying the language in a text or summarizing a document. But also answering specific questions based on the administration's own documentation. This means that employees will not have to search through numerous documents but can instead ask questions directly to an AI assistant and receive tailored answers," says Jonatan Permert.

Until the summer, the first phase of work on the assistant will involve developing the technical solution and methods for data generation and change management, in collaboration with the three municipalities and the three regions participating in the project. After the summer, the project will enter phase two, where scaling will occur based on the insights gained, together with an additional 30 or so municipalities, regions, and authorities.

Facts about the project

  • The initiative aims to create national collaboration within the public sector to develop modern and capable AI solutions for language. The goal is to share critical resources and the burden of creating the data needed to develop truly capable and flexible solutions.
  • The participating municipalities are Kungsbacka, Gothenburg, and Tjörn; the regions are Västra Götaland, Skåne, and Halland.
  • The technology provider is Intel.
  • The project is funded by Vinnova and the project participants.
  • Coordination and project management are conducted by AI Sweden.
  • In phase two, starting after the summer and planned to run until the end of 2025, the number of municipalities and regions will increase to about 30.
  • From 2026, the ambition is to hand over the initiative to an actor who will continue working with operations, scaling, and development in the long term.