There has been much focus of late on the harmful impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on humanity but far less emphasis on the concept of ‘AI for Good’, as promoted by the United Nations (UN).

ITHACA, a new project funded by Horizon Europe, bucks this trend as it sets out to explore the potential for AI to have a positive impact on democratic institutions and processes and to develop responsible and ethical practices for its application.

The three-year project began in January and runs until the end of 2025. It is coordinated by the Irish-based software firm, Konnektable Technologies, which builds data-driven products using the latest developments in Decision Support Systems, Knowledge management, Semantics, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, CyberSecurity and more.

Pilots in Romania and Slovakia

Taking its acronym from the name “Artificial Intelligence To enHAnce Civic pArticipation”’, ITHACA plans to do this through the development and testing of an online discussion platform for civic participation in local government.

The ITHACA project is set to host participatory workshops with AI Citizen Juries in pilot cities, focusing on assessing potential societal impacts of an AI system before implementation. These workshops aim to stimulate participants’ reflective thinking on ethical concerns, intended and unintended consequences, and measures to mitigate harms. The process also involves identifying discrimination patterns not evident through individual disclosures. The resulting reflection and critical dialogue with Citizens’ Juries will aid the ITHACA consortium in prioritizing harms based on perceived importance, urgency, and difficulty. The initiative is currently underway in the pilot cities of Martin (Slovakia) and Brasov (Romania).

ITHACA will use the feedback it receives from both pilots to develop scalable tools to identify security risks and ensure conformity with principles of fairness and privacy in AI-based systems.

The project will also provide a data governance framework with ethical principles and practices for AI civic engagement platforms, as well as policy recommendations for embedding philosophical, legal and ethical values in the development of such platforms.

Coordinated by Konnektable

ITHACA received €2.64 million in Horizon Europe funding under the Research and Innovation Actions, with €425,625 of this going to Konnektable.

According to Faye Petromelidou, Digital Marketing, Dissemination & Communication Manager at Konnektable, involvement in Horizon programmes encourages collaboration and knowledge exchange and gives the company access to a wide network of researchers, innovators, and experts.

“Engagement in these programmes ensures Konnektable remains at the forefront of technological advancements,” she says. “Being associated with prestigious programmes enhances visibility, credibility and opens doors to new partnerships.

New Concept

One of the biggest challenges facing Konnektable in coordinating the project and applying for funding was to define the scope and outcomes in what is a new and ever-evolving field.

Manuela Titorencu, Bid Manager at Konnektable and Proposal Writer of Ithaca Project, says the challenge was to establish a core consortium with complementary expertise from various disciplines and to generate consensus on the project concept.

She also recommends having an in-depth understanding of European Union policies and strategies in the field, as well as the kind of approaches others are using. ITHACA is aligned to several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the European Commission is committed to implementing in its policies.

“Because it’s a new concept …it was challenging,” she says, noting Konnektable had to “understand and combine all the technologies and how all the partners could cooperate on solutions that would be useful for the end users”.

But the effort that went into building the consortium is matched by the rewards, as it allows ITHACA to reach a wide audience and extend its influence beyond the boundaries of individual countries.

“This multidisciplinary consortium is invaluable as it facilitates collaboration, knowledge sharing and the exchange of best practices,” Faye says. “By leveraging this consortium, the ITHACA project can benefit from diverse perspectives, expertise and experiences, ultimately enhancing the quality and effectiveness of the project outcomes.”

Cooperation is key

Konnektable is currently involved in a total of twelve projects, comprising five funded under Horizon Europe, four under Erasmus+, and three under Horizon 2020 and has extensive experience in successfully applying for funding.

“Our R&D department has a deep knowledge of how decision-making works as we have participated in many projects. Konnektable has found that cooperation is key to submitting a successful project proposal. In every project submission, we cooperate as a team inside Konnektable but we also work as a team with our other partners,” Faye says.

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