Chairman and Managing Director of Accenture's UK and Ireland business
The digital revolution is here and offers new opportunities for the UK. We start from a position of strength, and we generally have strong foundational policies and regulations, which allow the opportunity to be realised while providing the needed protections for society.
However, we live in a fast moving world. We need to ensure that we move at digital speed to continue to be well positioned, and with Brexit on the horizon, now more than ever is a time to contemplate what else we can do to harness the digital opportunity for the economy and society.
Take Artificial Intelligence as an example, which is forecast to improve productivity and lower costs, extend our human capability, and allow people to achieve more. Nevertheless, as with any disruptive technology, concerns arise. It is essential that we are proactive in addressing these concerns—government, business and broader society working together to invent a "Responsible AI" philosophy, which in turn will improve how we live and work as a society.
Our Engage Digital initiative, presented here, identifies key levers that would help the UK make the most of the opportunity. Each of these is underpinned by a supporting policy paper. I encourage you to take a look, join in the conversation, and engage on the questions and issues that will help the UK harness the digital revolution.
Laws and regulators can and should be enablers of the digital economy. Clarity and predictability combined with speed and flexibility are essential.
The digital economy needs the right infrastructure to reach its full potential. This includes physical infrastructure, as well as regulatory, economic and skills.
Signals matter. Offering incentives to start ups, established players and investors declares that digital growth is a big priority.
The strongest digital economy has the best talent.
Senior Managing Director,
Deputy General Counsel
European Government Relations
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science of using computers to do things that to-date have required the human mind. It is the science of programming a computer to learn how to do, rather than to just do.
Certain AI functionality has been around for decades. However, the progress of AI has accelerated in recent years due to the rise of big data, the proliferation of connected sensors and actuators (the Internet of Things), and access to vastly increased processing power; especially through the cloud. AI, including its application in robotics, is now commonly referred to as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution". This revolution will see brands and governments engage digital to drive economic growth in our increasingly connected world.
For Artificial Intelligence to deliver fully on its promise, the technology will require predictability and trust. The two are interconnected: predictable legal treatment facilitates trust. Additionally, the successful use of AI will also require a robust ethical code to deal with issues that are too complex or fast changing to be adequately addressed by legislation.
What’s also clear is that with such a wide range of stakeholders with an interest in AI, the government will need to support the development of a thriving ecosystem around the technology. In this role, government would facilitate communication between stakeholders and encourage the sharing of best practice, as well as support research into AI techniques and help small businesses get off the ground.
There are several opportunities for the UK in this space:
But these opportunities also come with associated challenges:
We welcome steps already being taken in this space, including the £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund; and the funding boost of £17.3m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to support the development of new Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) technologies in universities across the UK.
None of this is for government alone and it is important for the UK – government, business, academia and society more widely – to collaborate and build on its existing position of strength so that we can engage AI further to differentiate and boost growth. These opportunities include:
Setting up broad-based AI Forums in strategic locations, bringing in members of private enterprise, academia, finance and policy makers to encourage dialogue between sectors on AI issues. The focus should be on regions with strong research institutions, as this is where the best new AI talent will most likely congregate.
Maintaining and increasing funding for research into AI. Investment is needed in universities to encourage graduates and post-graduates to continue research into AI techniques. There is currently a global skills shortage in this area. The UK is well placed to be the centre for the training of the next wave of AI specialists if the right investment is made. Partnerships with technology companies should be enhanced and encouraged as a way to gain further funding for this important area of research.
Continuing to promote policies and existing mechanisms for entrepreneurial businesses in the AI space. Providing incentives for the public sector to start adopting AI technologies. Support must be in place to help start-ups and small businesses set up and start trading.
Providing world class opportunities and open doors for the talented individuals in this field. This includes supporting educational establishments so that we can bring forward a new generation of talent ready for the future. Reskilling workers who may have lost out due to the introduction of AI technologies will also be important.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science of using computers to do things that traditionally required the human mind. It is a technology that will accelerate the digital transformation of industry, and will prove essential to the success of our digital economy in what is an increasingly connected world.
For AI to deliver on its promise, however, it will require predictability and trust. These two are interrelated. Predictable treatment of the complex issues AI will throw up, such as accountability and permitted data uses, will encourage investment in and use of AI. Similarly, progress with AI requires consumers to trust the technology and the fairness of how they are affected by it and how their data is used; predictable and transparent treatment facilitates this trust.
A robust legal framework will be needed to deal with those issues too complex or fast changing to be addressed adequately by legislation. But the political and legal process alone will not be enough. For trust to flourish, an ethical code will be equally important.
The government should therefore encourage discussion on the ethics of AI, and ensure all relevant parties are involved; bringing together the private sector, consumer groups and academia to develop an ethical code that keeps up with all relevant technological, social and political developments. Government efforts should be collaborative with existing efforts to research and discuss ethics in AI. There are many existing initiatives which could be encouraged, including the Alan Turing Institute, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, the WEF Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, work being done by the Royal Society, and the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society. There are industry bodies, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, working on developing standards and certification systems for Ethically Aligned Design of AI and autonomous systems. Where possible making those efforts inclusive rather than not exclusive or isolated is desirable.
As Artificial Intelligence becomes more sophisticated, it will start to make or assist decisions that have a greater impact on individual lives. This will raise ethical challenges as people adjust to the larger and more prominent role of automated decision making in society.
In the UK, AI has exciting implications in the consumer, healthcare, transport, professional services and defence industries. It promises to deliver learning and evolving systems that are more efficient and safer, smarter, and better able to operate at scale. For example:
But these opportunities come with associated ethical challenges:
We welcome steps already being taken in this space, including its commitment to undertake a major review on the development of artificial intelligence. As such, the UK already enjoys strong foundations in AI. But more can always be done.
None of this is for government alone and it is important for the UK – government, business, academia and society more widely – to collaborate and build on its existing position of strength so that we can engage AI further to differentiate and boost growth. These opportunities include fostering a public discussion to build a set of fundamental ethical principles for Artificial Intelligence development. Flexibility is necessary to allow for private bodies to develop and commit to more specific codes in certain sectors, building on these fundamental principles.
Such codes should focus on:
Sectors where specific codes may need to be developed include: