Birmingham forms guidelines on AI use

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 15, 2024


BIRMINGHAM — In July 2023, the city of Birmingham formed an Artificial Intelligence Committee to review and consider the potential of AI tools within the city.

Birmingham IT Manager Eric Brunk is leading this committee, which began looking at how AI was already being used throughout the city and if it was a necessity.

A survey was sent out to city staff to collect their thoughts and knowledge about AI.

“We found that there was a growing usage of it out there, that a lot of people didn’t know what it was or how it could be used, but had an interest in it,” Brunk said.

This feedback led the AI Committee to form guidelines for the city to follow if it decides to use AI technology.


Prior use of AI
One of the departments that had been working with AI already is the Human Resources Department.

Christina Woods, the city’s HR manager, said in an interview in 2023 that her department used ChatGPT as a resource to help brainstorm ideas for things such as letters and interview questions.

“It really has been saving a lot of time in getting a bunch of stuff out there so that we can actually focus on what is important, which is finding the best way to communicate to people and the best way to ask questions that get to the bottom of what it is that we are looking for in an employee,” Woods said in a previous interview.

Brunk said that the Planning Department had been using AI sparingly to re-voice some documentation that they were writing.


AI guidelines
The new guidelines discuss the importance of fact checking, privacy concerns, the need to disclose when AI is used and more.

“We took a look at a lot of guidelines that were already published out there to give us sort of an idea of where to start,” Brunk said. “And we did some research into the types of issues that might pop up with generative AI.”

Brunk emphasized that if city employees decide to use AI, they need to use it to supplement thorough research, because AI uses large language models that could be swayed by incorrect information.

“We definitely wanted our employees to be the end decision for anything that was being published by them, because it was going to have their name on it,” Brunk said. “We are using AI as more of a tool.”

The guidelines that are posted now are called the “City of Birmingham Interim Guidelines For Using Generative Artificial Intelligence.” Within these guidelines, it states that they will be replaced “with permanent policies, standards, and training.”