Updated Dec 5, 2023 - Technology

AI is helping new parents apply for paid leave

Reshma Saujani giving a speech on stage

Reshma Saujani At The IBM InterConnect 2017 Conference. Photo: David Becker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A free online tool, debuting today, taps generative AI to help new moms and others in New York figure out whether they're eligible for paid family leave and guides them through the application process.

Why it matters: Paidleave.ai aims to solve one challenge while providing a pathway for others to harness generative AI to navigate complicated bureaucracies.

Between the lines: Paidleave.ai is the latest effort from Moms First, a nonprofit started by Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani.

  • Saujani conceived the tool under the auspices of Moms First and developed it with support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies and technical work from AI startup Novy.

How it works: Users type their situation into the tool as a prompt.

  • The system uses OpenAI's GPT-4 to help parse the query, do any language translation and then help a person determine whether they're eligible for paid leave and what forms and other information they need to gather.
  • Paidleave.ai sends an email to the user with an action plan and the AI chat session is not retained, to help ensure privacy.
  • For now the system is limited to New York State, though the goal is to show how this could be done in other places and with more types of public benefits.

Of note: Although the site's creators say the tool is accurate, in part because it has been so narrowly focused and trained, it still includes disclaimers that early adopters of generative AI have become used to seeing.

Paidleave.ai supports a wide range of languages and the organization says it should excel at many widely spoken languages including Spanish, Chinese and Japanese but may struggle with less common languages due to a lack of training data.

What they're saying: "I think AI has got a bad rap," Saujani told Axios, referring to all the worries about both existential risks to humanity as well as the notion it will inherently exacerbate existing inequalities.

  • "You can use technology to close the equality gap," Saujani said. "It can make the world a little bit better."

Yes, but: Another way to approach the fact that government benefits are so difficult to access would be to make the process itself simpler, rather than just building an AI bot to help people navigate through the morass.

  • Saujani said she hopes that governments also take that lesson from the tool. "Why do you make it so hard?" she said.

Flashback: It started with an e-mail between Saujani and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in late June. OpenAI connected Saujani to the team at Novy and provided other resources.

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