Flanders statistics agency to use AI to better understand civilian needs

Flanders statistics agency to use AI to better understand civilian needs
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Statistiek Vlaanderen, the regional Flanders statistics agency, is partnering up with Belgian artificial intelligence (AI) company Radix to build an AI-powered dashboard to better judge the needs and concerns of local citizens, according to a press release published by Radix on 9 June.

The tool will allow government agencies to gauge the reactions and concerns of citizens on social media using machine learning. In collaboration with Radix, the Flanders government will be able to use social media data in order to better understand public sentiment.

Ultimately, there are hopes that the data will complement the statistic agency's other findings.

Big data

Analysing up to 50,000 tweets by Flemish residents every month, the dashboard will create digestible data on positive and negative sentiment surrounding events or government decisions.

“We are currently experimenting with this dashboard to determine how to offer the public maximum value and accuracy,” says Muchael Reusens, data science coordinator at Statistiek Vlaanderen.

“We are conducting several lines of research, such as population bias, annotation bias, and optimal machine learning models, to ensure that we are publishing the most accurate and unbiased statistics possible."

The Flemish government looks forward to using this tool and creating new and interesting statistics to inform government decision-making.

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According to developers, sentiment analysis is a powerful tool to help judge public opinion on a vast array of topics. Organisations that use Statistiek Vlaanderen’s data are able to analyse issues, browse comments and reviews, and map the distribution of positive and negative feelings towards their own brands.

“We are happy to take on this challenge, but also to undertake this rewarding work with Statistiek Vlaanderen,” said Davio Larnout, CEO and co-founder of Radix.

A regional strength

Flemish companies are frontrunners in the use of AI. According to Flemish Economy and Innovation Minister Hilde Crevits, around 25% of companies are already regularly relying on machine intelligence in their daily business operations.

Yet concerns abound about the privacy and human rights implications of artificial intelligence systems. Last year, the United Nations called for a moratorium on the development of certain technologies over concerns they “can have negative, even catastrophic effects if they are used without sufficient consideration for human rights.”

However, Radix underlines the potential benefits that the new statistical technologies will bring when making important decisions across Belgian society: “Artificial Intelligence has the power to turn social media data into a great source for multifaceted and comprehensive statistics. Government organisations can use the valuable insights to make important political, economic and societal decisions."

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