The Ethics and Practice of AI Localism at a time of COVID-19 and beyond


Project timeline

October 2020                                                                                                                                         September 2021

October 2020                                 September 2021

GPS Map: Bild von Mohamed Hassan auf Pixabay

As they grapple with COVID-19 and other challenges, cities worldwide are mobilizing AI technologies to help trace patient contacts, automate decision-making, and monitor citizen movements. These developments are part of the emergence of AI Localism, a term coined by Stefaan Verhulst and Mona Sloane for a new and radical shift of AI governance from the national to the local level. While local AI leadership offers greater agility and potential for innovation, the urgency of the crisis has left little time to address ethical and human rights questions, and inform city officials of potential risks.

This project will identify successful, equitable and democratic global examples of local AI use and governance for COVID-19 as well as risks and challenges, including problematic AI applications, public concerns, and conflicts over AI use between cities and state and non-state actors. The project goal is to determine characteristics of success and share successful approaches that can be emulated by cities worldwide.

News and Updates

Principal Investigators

Dr. Matthias Uhl, Research Group “Ethics of Digitization”, TUM School of Governance


Stefaan Verhulst, Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development,

The GovLab (New York University)

Jeannie Marie Paterson, Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Ethics,

University of Melbourne

Mona Sloane

The GovLab (New York University)


  • Andrew Young, The Gov Lab