Estonia plans an AI-powered “Robot Judge”

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 Can AI be a fair judge in court? Estonia thinks so.

GOVERNMENT USUALLY ISN’T the place to look for innovation in IT or new technologies like artificial intelligence. But Ott Velsberg might change your mind. As Estonia’s chief data officer, the 28-year-old graduate student is overseeing the tiny Baltic nation’s push to insert artificial intelligence and machine learning into services provided to its 1.3 million citizens.

“We want the government to be as lean as possible,” says the wiry, bespectacled Velsberg, an Estonian who is writing his PhD thesis at Sweden’s Umeå University on using the Internet of Things and sensor data in government services. Estonia’s government hired Velsberg last August to run a new project to introduce AI into various ministries to streamline services offered to residents.

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One of Estonia’s first “e-residents” explains what it means to have digital citizenship

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An online community survey recently asked me where I’m based. Without hesitation, I answered “Estonia.” You might ask: as a US citizen, why in the world did I do that? But as crazy as it may sound, Estonia is the country to which I feel most loyal today. I am one of the country’s first “e-Residents,” and I feel more welcome there than pretty much anywhere else in the world.

Hold on: an e-what?

I’m an Estonian e-Resident. A virtual resident, sort of. Let me explain.

In 2014, Estonia, a country previously known as much for its national singing revolution as anything else, became the first country in the world to launch an e-Residency program. Once admitted, e-Residents can conduct business worldwide as if they were from Estonia, which is a member of the EU. They are given government-issued digital IDs, can open Estonian bank and securities accounts, form and register Estonian companies, and have a front-row seat as nascent concepts of digital and virtual citizenship evolve. There is no requirement to have a physical presence in Estonia.

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