Man standing in San Jose City Hall hallway in front of window
San Jose Chief Information Officer Khaled Tawfik has helped the city lead a nationwide coalition of government agencies forming responsible AI policies. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

While San Jose is getting cozy with artificial intelligence, the city is preparing safety nets for its own partnerships.

The city published a set of employee guidelines on AI last July. Now, it’s nearly done with an AI policy with requirements for companies that work with San Jose. This policy was created in tandem with the Government AI Coalition — a collective of public agencies nationwide that work together to flesh out policies to help use AI responsibly.

The coalition was spearheaded by San Jose and launched in November with nine other governments. It has grown to more than 600 members representing 250 public agencies, including Sunnyvale, Sacramento and San Francisco.

San Jose Chief Information Officer Khaled Tawfik said the coalition has worked on clarifying information governing bodies need from AI companies, such as how long a program stores private data or if the program has any potential biases.

The coalition has published templates for regulations related to AI, including a form for AI companies detailing what information to provide when working with government agencies.

Tawfik said it’s important to establish streamlined safety rules early with burgeoning technology. He pointed to the advent of smartphones and social media, and how regulators are continuously trying to catch up with the speed of innovation and bad actors online.

“None of the parents gave their kids a bike and sent them to the park and told them to go figure it out, but we felt it was safe to give our kids a smartphone,” Tawfik told San José Spotlight. “We’re trying to learn from our mistakes over the last 25 years.”

The coalition allows for agencies to communicate about the problems they face, hoping to identify potential risks earlier, Tawfik said.

Another boon is the consolidation of government voices, as legislatures across the nation move to regulate AI. In Colorado’s Department of Revenue, Head of Data Governance and Artificial Intelligence Anthony Fisher has been introducing his colleagues across other agencies to the potential of AI in work. He co-chairs the coalition’s External Affairs Committee, where he has helped draft AI policies in alignment with the hundreds of other member agencies.

“I want to make sure I’m giving my citizens, my stakeholders, the best possible outcome and if AI is the type of tool to help with that, then I want to be able to do that and make sure that everything is buttoned up properly,” Fisher told San José Spotlight.

California lawmakers are considering a handful of AI bills this year, including one regulating the use of deepfake technology in pornography and another that could require AI companies to publicize datasets used to create certain systems. At the federal level, Congressmember Ro Khanna introduced the first bill written with ChatGPT last year and hosted an AI roundtable in March where participants discussed the topic of guardrails.

“There needs to be a long-term strategy in Congress and at the local level to not only create guardrails, but ensure that workers benefit from the advancement of this technology,” Khanna told San José Spotlight.

San Jose has been trying to bring more AI industry to the city and strategize ways to attract companies. Previously, Mayor Matt Mahan told San José Spotlight the city is a prime location for AI companies because of its proximity to world renowned hardware, software and semiconductor companies. Tawfik also said the city has almost 10,000 patents related to AI.

“I think AI is going to be embedded in everything we’re going to do in the future,” Tawfik said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how that can be implemented in a safe way.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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