Shah designed approaches centered around identifying avenues to elicit people’s preferences and ensure a fair allocation of the budget with respect to their needs. This included participatory budget models based on happiness derived from a project or based on the cost of implementation.
Consider a hypothetical example outlined in Participatory Budgeting: Models and Approaches. 3,000 residents vote on allocating a $7 million budget to four projects: A and B (each cost $3 million), C (cost of $2 million) andD (cost of $2 million). Two thousand residents like only projects A and B, 500 like only C, and the remaining 500 like only D.In this example, projects A and B could be implemented, which would make 2,000 residents “very happy” but the rest “very unhappy.” Or, one of projects A and B could get the green light together with both projects C and D. This would make 2,000 residents “partially happy” and 1,000 residents “very happy.” What would be the fair choice?
Toronto piloted participatory budgeting from 2015 to 2017 in Scarborough and North York. Overall, the pilot study found that residents wanted more input on infrastructure projects and more opportunities to consult city staff on various issues. However, it found participatory budgeting was also resource-intensive and could result in divisions in communities.
As Shah continues to develop fair approaches to participatory budgeting, he’ll also explore how proportional representation, which ensures each neighborhood gets an adequate amount of representation – be it monetary or political – commensurate with the people living there, can help curb another issue known as political gerrymandering – when boundaries of electoral districts are altered for political advantage, giving some communities more voting rights than others.
Investing in the future
As researchers at the Schwartz Reisman Institute navigate the promise and pitfalls of existing technologies for society, Hadfield says SRI is simultaneously investing in initiatives that aim to influence the direction of future technological development.
In an effort to promote responsible, ethics-based AI technologies, SRI partnered with the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at the Rotman School of Management last summer to provide mentorship and support to startups in the incubator’s AI stream. This includes Private AI, which protects privacy by developing AI software that erases personal data from text, images and video, and Armilla AI, an AI governance platform enabling algorithmic accountability.
The Schwartz Reisman Institute also ran a one-day workshop with the Business Development Corporation of Canada (BDC), which provides business loans to small and medium Canadian enterprises, and hosted panels with government regulators, regulatory technology providers and SRI researchers to connect about establishing a fair, responsible Canadian AI industry.
With regulatory transformation a strategic goal at SRI – and a focus of Hadfield’s current research – SRI will partner with governments, civil society organizations and other institutions to offer new ideas about regulatory frameworks to guide digital transformation.
By Tina Adamopoulos