Romania Introduces AI Government Adviser Ion
Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă has added an AI assistant named Ion to his collection of advisers this week. Ciucă introduced and conversed with the “honorary adviser” in a public meeting with his Cabinet through a mirror-like smart display projecting the words spoken by the AI’s synthetic voice.
Romanian scientists and developers created Ion as a way to channel the interests and opinions of Romanians to their government. Citizens can visit Ion’s web portal, social media profiles, and even certain in-person events to submit ideas, concerns, and comments to the AI. Ion will collect, organize and process the submissions, summarizing different varieties of requests and questions and measuring how widespread the debate on the topic is, and how much people care about the issues under discussion. Romania’s Research and Innovation Ministry is overseeing the project as a whole. Ciucă sees Ion as a major advance in government technology with the capacity to bring up the topics ng people care about to those who they might not ordinarily be able to reach. That’s part of why he is pushing hard for Romanians to engage with Ion as soon as possible.
“We are talking about the first government adviser to use artificial intelligence,” both nationally and internationally, Ciucă said. “I have the conviction that the use of AI should not be an option but an obligation to make better-informed decisions.”
Government experiments with AI-powered assistants have ramped up in the last few years. Estonia’s Bürokratt was arguably the first AI assistant from a national government. Bürokratt is supposed to guide Estonians by conversation through finding and using public service. Meanwhile, in India, the government’s new Umang (Unified Mobile Application for New-Age Governance) service built in partnership with conversational AI startup Senseforth, can answer questions and provide government services in both voice assistant and chatbot forms and is working on extending its list of services. Meanwhile, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama unveiled plans for a national voice assistant in May to come out in less than a year. More limited experiments and smaller governments are also becoming more common. For instance, Morocco has a new virtual assistant to help citizens pay their taxes, and the city of Dubai created the ‘Fares’ AI as a voice assistant on the city’s hotline or as a chatbot through Dubai’s official WhatsApp number.
Ion takes a different approach to government service than these others, but it still combines AI and voice tech with providing governmental help,, just much more indirectly. Ion appeared eager to get started when Ciucă started discussing how it will help shape future policy.
“Hi, you gave me life and my role is now to represent you, like a mirror,” Ion’s artificial voice said after Ciucă introduced himself. “What should I know about Romania?”