What is the AI Roadmap?

The AI Council, an independent expert committee advising the UK Government on artificial intelligence, has recently published an AI Roadmap, setting out its recommendations to all government departments on near-term steps to take to maximise the potential value of AI to the UK economy.

The AI Council’s recommendations

The AI Council’s sixteen recommendations identify and address challenges to the advancement of the UK’s AI sector in: 1) research, development and innovation; 2) skills & diversity; 3) data, infrastructure & public trust; 4) national, cross-sector adoption.  

Here we look at the recommendations for improving public trust.  These are particularly notable for AI developers, data protection practitioners and business leaders.

Not all of these recommendations are achievable at once; to cement the UK’s leading position, the roadmap called for a National AI Strategy.

1. Data Governance and AI infrastructure

Recommendation: "Lead the development of data governance options and its uses. The UK should lead in developing appropriate standards to frame the future governance of data." 

The UK should lead in developing appropriate standards to frame the future governance of data. "Clear and flexible regulation will be critical to supporting good data practices, and can help to level the playing field for new entrants into digital and data-driven markets."  And whilst some regulators such as the ICO have already published guidance on auditing AI, more guidance and exemplars are needed to help businesses developing and deploying AI use data efficiently and in compliance with privacy regulation and intellectually property law, such as through data trusts, cooperatives and contracts.

The AI Council also recommended businesses to embed data principles such as FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) and to adopt agreed ethical framework for data processing for the purpose of AI. To that end, a common language between data practitioners and AI developers is also needed.

Access to data will also be crucial.  "The government should focus its plans to make more public sector data safely and securely available, being clear about which data will be increasingly available, under what conditions and on what timescale."

2. Ensure public trust

Recommendation: "Ensure public trust through public scrutiny. The UK must lead in finding ways to enable public scrutiny of, and input to, automated decision-making and help ensure that the public can trust AI."

Recent reports of public bodies’ use of AI technologies (which we discuss here) again highlight that, for businesses and individuals to truly embrace AI, public trust and confidence in the sector is the foundation. The public should be reassured that the use of AI is safe, secure, fair, ethical and overseen by independent entities.

"Developing and deploying trustworthy AI will be dependent on the UK strengthening its governing environment in a manner that both provides guidance and confidence to businesses to innovate and adopt AI, and reassures the public that the use of AI is safe, secure, fair, ethical and duly overseen by independent entities."

In addition to continuous development of suitable regulations and frameworks for algorithmic accountability, further legislation may be required, such as a public interest data bill to ensure (1) clear transparency about automated decision making, (2) the right for the public to give meaningful input and (3) the ability for regulators to enforce sanctions.

3. A globally leading role

Recommendation: "Thoughtfully position the UK with respect to other major AI nations. Building on its strengths, the UK has a crucial opportunity to become a global lead in good governance, standards and frameworks for AI and enhance bilateral cooperation with key actors."

As one of the top three countries in terms of research publications in AI, the Roadmap calls for the industry to leverage the UK’s leading role to shape international discussions on issues such as data governance practice, standards and frameworks for AI.

What does the Roadmap mean for businesses and the AI sector?

The AI Council has emphasised that the Roadmap is not a national strategy per se. It calls on the government to draft such a strategy along with priorities and time frame, as the UK Government has done for the National Data Strategy. It is expected that the AI Council will engage with stakeholders to capture further thoughts on the Roadmap and advise the government on the prospective national strategy, which once implemented could fast-track the development of potential regulations and industry standards.

Given the increased attention on the use of AI in the public sector and regulated sectors such as financial services, healthcare and transport, we expect more data governance standards and frameworks to be delivered in these sectors in the coming years. The international nature of the development of AI can see more cross-border cooperation in this area. Once there are consensus on standards or practices for the development and use of AI, we are also likely to see some of these standards make their ways into, or influence, legislation.

Written by Yunzhe Zhang and Tom Whittaker