Will County Government: First in Nation to Publish AI-Enabled Financial Report
New way to publish government financial data for transparent, instantly comparable information
JOLIET, IL - Today the office of Will County Auditor Duffy Blackburn announced that Will County has published financial information in a data format that allows artificial intelligence and other software to analyze and compare the county's financial performance.
Blackburn is pioneering the use of this reporting with others needing to follow suit. Conventional financial documents cannot be read by software because they do not electronically identify each piece of information. But Will County's newly-published Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for 2018 fiscal year uses data tags to specify each number and line item, including the mathematical relationships between them.
"Will County is the first government in the nation to officially publish AI-enabled financial data," said Blackburn. "We are doing this because we want our financial performance to be easily comparable, and even automatically comparable, across time and against other governments'. With software automatically able to illuminate challenges and risk, we are more accountable to our citizens and financial markets."
Blackburn's office has published this financial data in its raw form, available for download using a data format called eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL).
Blackburn is pioneering the use of this platform for governments as others need to follow suit. Florida's legislature has passed a law requiring all of its local governments to publish electronic financial reports in the same way, but the state government has not yet implemented the law. A similar law has passed in California. On the federal level, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has introduced the Financial Transparency Act, which would require all state and local government financial statements submitted as part of bond issues to be published in the same data format.
"In Florida, in California, and in Congress, lawmakers are getting ready to require all state and local financial information to be AI-enabled," said Blackburn. "But in Will County, we're not waiting for lawmakers to enact a requirement. We agree that publishing our financial information as machine-readable data is the way forward, and our county government decided to lead rather than follow."
On Thursday, Oct. 3, Blackburn delivered a keynote address and live tech demo at the Municipal Finance Data Forum at Northern Illinois University's Naperville Campus, sponsored by the XBRL US nonprofit organization, which creates and maintains financial data formats that are used to enable instant analysis of both private-sector and public-sector financial reports. Blackburn's keynote and demo explained the value of standardized data in financial reporting and predicted the benefits of the universal adoption of this innovation, such cost cutting for municipal bond markets and improvements to better government.