Hackers build technology to automate politicians

In the summer of 2017, The Fourth Group community hosted a Politician AI Hackathon. Participants built products to automate tasks politicians do. The winning team developed a chatbot called Civic Triage which points citizens to public services which can help address social problems.

Panel discussion

At the start of the weekend, we held a panel discussion between experts in politics, technology, and the law.

Oliver Coppard, a political campaigner in the UK, outlined tasks politicians do such as knocking on doors to win votes, gathering data to understand constituents’ needs, and communicating to multiple stakeholders. He argued that some of these tasks can be automated by technology, but challenged the participants to think about the ethics behind their products and the inherent limits of technology.

The recently appointed President of the Law Society, Joe Egan, described how the legal sector is being impacted by automation. The typical case study is of IBM’s Ross replacing departments in legal firms which are responsible for analysing large data sets and identifying patterns.

Founder of Newspeak House, Ed Saperia, shared trends he has noticed amongst projects which seek to disrupt the way democracy is done, particularly the frustrations faced by citizens wanting to engage with government. He also gave tips to participants about how to make the most of the weekend hackathon.

Finally, open data campaigner, Hera Hussain, spoke about her experience using data to hold corporations to account, and the challenges she has faced in accessing data.

Hackathon

To get participants ready to hack, Daniel Ospina from Conductal, led a workshop outlining a model and process to make the most of the weekend, including how to ideate and how to develop a minimal viable product. We also had mentors from Google, Microsoft, Entrepreneur First, and Oxford University.

Participants then pitched ideas, and in the end, 5 teams formed. Here’s what the teams built in 24 hours:

Team 1: Software that analyses data of legislation to provide answers

Team 2: Decision-making software that provides the user with weighted options for political choices

Team 3: Gmail plug-in that analyses then categorises incoming email and provides the user to automatically forward the email to the most relevant contact

Team 4: Policy-making tool to model the impact of policy decisions

Team 5 (winning team): Civic Triage is a chatbot which points citizens to public services which can help address social problems.

Check out this article featuring Civic Triage for more information: http://thefourthgroup.org/political-technology/this-app-promises-to-humanise-bureaucracy/.

Next steps

Participants have created a new sub-group in The Fourth Group’s community focused on automating tasks politicians do. The winning team, Civic Triage, won $250 Amazon vouchers, free tickets to Data for Policy’s conference, “Government by Algorithm”, and a mentoring session with AI expert Tim Green.

Thank yous

Thank you to our sponsors .tech domains and our partner CognitionX for supporting our event. And special thank you to our community members Aida Martinez and Daniel Fernandez who co-led the hackathon.