The latest session of Mobile Talks – “Where emerging tech meets government: Blockchain & AI” featured an in-depth discussion of the challenges and opportunities blockchain technology and artificial intelligence can offer to public administration. Held at the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), the event welcomed a hundred people and featured a panel of international experts composed of Boyd Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Iomob, Christina Patsioura, senior analyst at GSMA Intelligence, Alex Puig, chief technology officer at Caleum Labs, Ulisés Cortés, head of the Artificial Intelligence research team and director of institutional relations at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and Carina Lopes, panel moderator and head of the Digital Future Society Think Tank at Mobile World Capital Barcelona.
The session was opened by Esteban Redolfi, director of Digital Future Society (DFS), the Mobile World Capital programme spotlighted in this edition of Mobile Talks. In his speech, Redolfi noted that “this Mobile Talks represents an important step in opening up new dialogues and exploring how emerging technologies can help governments to become much more agile, efficient and able to build a more favourable framework to leverage better technology and minimize negative effects.”
Next the floor passed to Christina Patsioura, who presented her research on the scope and benefits of implementing blockchain in public entities through different use cases. Among them, she highlighted digital voting systems powered by blockchain that protect voting transparency, security and efficiency (e-voting) as well as blockchain-based land registries proving property ownership or e-health initiatives guaranteeing citizens’ rights to social benefits in a secure way.
Regarding artificial intelligence, Patsioura listed some of its potential applications in government, such as combating tax evasion, improving the welfare state by enabling task automation to save time and resources, and powering the management of smart cities. She indicated how Europe is already promoting these technologies in the public sphere by sharing examples, such as the case of France, who will allocate 700 million euros to use AI to reduce public sector bureaucracy or the European Commission that is set to invest 1.5 billion euros in AI through the H2020 program.
As for public innovation in European cities, Ulises Cortés highlighted the “living labs” movement as a citizen innovation model that represents a unique opportunity to nurture citizens’ entrepreneurial spirit and, if their solution works, to scale them worldwide. “Living labs” function as laboratories where users participate in innovation processes that innovate products, services and infrastructures dedicated exclusively to civil society.
Boyd Cohen affirmed that government innovation processes are typically less agile than those of the private sector. For this reason he advised that governments base their course of action on a strong commitment to and regular interaction with private entrepreneurs and citizens who are leading the transformation to promote digitization at the public level. Cohen went on to highlight Barcelona as a pioneer in forging this type of alliance based on innovative, collaborative and enterprising public procurement.
In the same vein, Alex Puig highlighted how public administrations should connect with private entities to face new digital challenges and offer higher quality security services. He also mentioned that even though blockchain presents high barriers of entry due to its technical complexity, it is necessary to overcome them if we want to build innovative solutions that add value.
To close the session, Christina Patisoura pointed out that these emerging technologies are not yet fully established, and although pilots and projects are being carried out in labs and trials, we are still waiting for blockchain and AI to reach the market. Still, a high potential for public benefit and contribution to the common good is why it is important to experiment with their integration into the public innovation ecosystem.
Check out the video summary of this edition of Mobile Talks: