The prime minister of Romania, Nicolae Ciuca, recently announced a new AI technology that will act as a government advisor with the aim of representing the values and opinions of Romanian citizens. It can be directly accessed and interacted with at https://ion.gov.ro/ and the PM declared that in the future it will scan social media in order to inform the government “in real time of Romanians’ proposals and wishes.”
In a cabinet meeting on March 1st the new AI-powered advisor was revealed. The video, which appeared on television, shows politicians interacting a dark-blue mirror-like machine. The PM was seen having a conversation with the machine, with its replies appearing on the screen as a low voice slowly dictated ION’s function.
Our government’s new advisor is already catching the attention of Romanians and around 150,000 people have already logged into ION. However, it is only in the first phase of the project – the learning phase.
It is now gathering as much information as possible to generate a baseline body of information that reflects the opinion of Romanians. This is done through a somewhat modest chat box on their website and through social media posts that include the tag @noisuntemion.
In Romanian, the name “Ion” is the equivalent of “John” – a common and traditional name. “NOI suntem ION” translates to “We are Ion,” with the idea of ‘reflecting’ the population’s beliefs being incorporated into the name with the mirror-like characteristic of NOI and ION.
It is a pro bono project, developed by a volunteer group of Romanian academics and industry experts.
Reservations about ION
Even though many countries applaud Romania for taking such an innovative approach to timely issues, there are still some sceptics who critique this AI advisor.
Because ION uses social media as a powerful tool to express the opinions of Romanian citizens, it also has some drawbacks, such as favouring those who post more frequently, which may not be beneficial to the masses. Certain individuals or hired bots could continuously post about a specific subject in order to divert attention away from an actual problem.
Some citizens are also wary about how involved ION will be in legal decision-making. Sebastian Burduja, Member of the Assembly of Deputies of Romania, quickly debunks those rumours by stating that “ION is not introduced in the governing act per se. ION brings to attention the core topics of interest for Romanians, which are then presented to decision-makers.”
Ciugud Town Hall sent an open letter to ION on Facebook. In it, an accusation was mentioned of “stealing” an image from their website, which sparked controversy, becoming a hot topic. One of the images used in the presentation belongs to them and is in breach of the GDPR as it is a picture of a student.
However, the letter also references that Ciugud Town Hall wants a Romania with a more “paper free” and less complicated legislature related to the digital world. The controversy was swiftly resolved, with the ION representative Burduja apologising and explaining that they collaborated with TVR (Romanian public broadcast service) who gave them permission to use footage which contained the image.
What does this mean for the future of AI’s?
Bucharest has already been dubbed the future global tech hotspot due to the rising talent and “high-grade digital infrastructure.” As a country, it appears to be catching up quickly to the ever growing tech industry.
According to Romania Insider, the IT market in this country “could exceed EUR 12 billion in the next two years.” It seems like the top industry to be working in right now and salaries are also rising proportionally.
“I would encourage Romanians to be open and curious in regards to this project and to new technologies in general because it is important to align new international tendencies to be more efficient, and, why not pave the way for innovative projects such as ION.”Burduja
Now with the government’s new AI experiment, ION, it seems as though artificial intelligence is taking Romania by storm. Regardless of this project’s outcome, this is still a very important step for integrating AI in our lives as a tool rather than an enemy.