Forging Tomorrow: A Call to Action to the University Community

MetroLab Network
3 min readJan 9, 2024

by: Nitisha Tripathi, MetroLab GenAI Policy Fellow

In the ever-changing landscape of technological evolution, history teaches us a crucial lesson: multi-stakeholder collaboration is a must to comprehend the use and potential misuse of new technology — it can’t be an afterthought. A proactive, “whole of society” approach is key to not only mitigate risks but also seize opportunities created by emerging technologies.

MetroLab’s mission seeks to proactively engage science and research with local government policy and programming. As our In the Lab initiative continues to develop policy guidance on GenAI for local governments, important questions have arisen. Our seven subcommittees have been meeting on a monthly basis, and have identified research needs to help inform both this MetroLab initiative generally, and the GenAI policy making community at large. As we navigate the complex policy questions associated with incorporation and use of GenAI, we invite our university community partners to contribute their insights and opinions. Several key questions beckon their expertise, ranging from assessing potential abuse of 311 systems to understanding the implications of AI-generated data inaccuracies on city operations.

The MetroLab Task Force has identified the following research needs and questions:

  1. Establishing and Sustaining Trust in AI-Optimized Services Provided by Local Government:

1a. What are potential pillars to a comprehensive measurement framework (from the outset) to gauge both the effectiveness and potential harm of AI solutions?

1b. What are the potential impacts on the local government workforce? What are key indicators that can help track workforce needs for training effectiveness?

2. Enhancing Open Data and 311 Operations:

2a. What existing case studies or examples focus on the assessment process of AI systems for accuracy, and what diverse approaches have groups or individuals employed?

2b. In the context of 311 systems, how might residents potentially abuse the system to manipulate AI functionality?

2c. Could AI inadvertently generate or hallucinate false problem areas in a city based on inaccurate interpretation of 311 data? What are the potential implications of such an issue on a city’s operations?

3. Revolutionizing Community Engagement with GenAI:

3a. How is the general public presently leveraging GenAI technology? Any specific references to engaging the government would be helpful.

3b. What are the common community concerns about general use of GenAI, pertaining to safety, reliability, quality of output or other factors?

4. Addressing Cybersecurity and Privacy Concerns:

4a. What scenarios surround the various risks posed by GenAI with respect to cybersecurity, both in the near-term and long-term?

4b. How do local governments inadvertently introduce vulnerabilities through their own utilization of AI?

The more specific and data-driven the responses, the better. We are looking for concrete information and recommendations that will be the building blocks of our robust policy guidance. Any published research references would also be helpful.

We welcome your feedback and response by way of email to Your input isn’t just valuable; it will fuel the evolution of our approach to GenAI adoption and usage concerns for local governments.

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About the Task Force

Embracing the principles of an inclusive strategy, MetroLab Network embarked on a groundbreaking initiative with the launch of our GenAI for Local Governments task force in June 2023. This national endeavor brings together our local government and university community to develop policy guidance for GenAI policy to local governments. This guidance infuses research and expertise from the research community with cities, counties, transit authorities, ports, and metropolitan planning organizations.

Recognizing the dynamic nature of Generative AI, the involvement of the academic community is pivotal for shaping meaningful and effective policy guidance. To bridge the gap between aspirations of local government initiatives and innovative vigor of the research community in universities, our GenAI task force serves as a conduit for an unparalleled collaborative effort between these stakeholders.

For more information, please visit our website.



MetroLab Network

35+ city-university pairs bringing data, analytics & innovation to city gov’t thru research, development & deployment. Launched at #WHSmartCities 2015