AI in the UK: No Room for Complacency

The House of Lords Liaison Committee has today published a new report, AI in the UK: No Room for Complacency. This report examines government’s progress against the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence in their 2018 report, AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?

This report presents a number of important recommendations touching on the role of government, ethics, regulation, and retraining. techUK looks forward to further discussion and consideration of these suggested proposals in the new year. For now, here are some of the key recommendations proposed by the Committee:

Role of government

The report highlights that government needs to better coordinate its artificial intelligence (AI) policy and the use of data and technology by national and local government. The Liaison Committee outlines a proposal to set up a new Cabinet Committee to oversee the strategic direction of Government AI policy and suggests that one of their first tasks should be to commission and approve a five year strategy for AI, which should include a reflection on whether the existing bodies and their remits are sufficient.

The publication also emphasises that active steps must be taken to explain to the public the use of their personal data by AI. Greater public understanding will be essential for the wider adoption of AI. The Committee recommend taking immediate steps to appoint a Chief Data Officer, whose responsibilities should include acting as a champion for the opportunities presented by AI in the public service, and ensuring that understanding and use of AI, and the safe and principled use of public data, are embedded across the public service.

In addition, the report highlights the need to pick up the pace when it comes to the development and deployment of data trusts and recommends that this work is reflected in the National Data Strategy.

Digital ethics

The Committee acknowledge that there is “now a clear consensus that ethical AI is the only sustainable way forward. The time has come for the Government to move from deciding what the ethics are, to how to instil them in the development and deployment of AI systems”. In the report the HOL Liaison Committee suggest that the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) should establish and publish national standards for the ethical development and deployment of AI. These standards should consist of two frameworks, one for the ethical development of AI, including issues of prejudice and bias, and the other for the ethical use of AI by policymakers and businesses. Any work in this area will require an initial consideration and mapping of the standards and frameworks that already exist to avoid duplication of effort, as well as sufficient stakeholder consultation.

 

Future regulation

The report suggests that challenges posed by the development and deployment of AI cannot currently be tackled by cross-cutting regulation. Sector-specific regulators are better placed to identify gaps in regulation, and to learn about AI and apply it to their sectors. The CDEI and Office for AI can play a cross-cutting role, along with the ICO, to provide that understanding of risk and the necessary training and upskilling for sector specific regulators.

 

Retraining

Finally, the Committee acknowledge the disruption that COVID-19 has had on the workforce and the inevitable changes it will have on the future of work.  As part of the UK’s post-COVID economic recovery, the Committee recommend that the AI Council identify the industries most at risk, and the skills gaps in those industries. In addition, they propose that a specific training scheme should be designed to support people to work alongside AI and automation, and to be able to maximise its potential.

 

The full report AI in the UK: No Room for Complacency can be accessed here. If you’d like to get involved in techUK’s AI programme of work in 2021, please get in touch with [email protected].

 

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Head of Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID, techUK