Government ‘must invest’ for UK to become AI world leader

16 Apr 18

The government must provide funding to help the UK become a “world leader” in the use of artificial intelligence, a group of Lords has said.

A report from a Lords select committee, out today, has called on the government to set up a ‘growth fund’ to support small and medium-sized enterprises that have a “substantive AI component”.

“The UK is in a strong position to be a world leader in the development of artificial intelligence,” the Lords said in releasing AI in the UK: Ready, Willing and Able?

“This position, coupled with the wider adoption of AI, could deliver a major boost to the economy for years to come.”

The committee, chaired by Lord Clement-Jones, suggested that AI development should be funded using a proportion of a £2.5bn investment fund at the British Business Bank, which was announced in the Autumn Budget 2017.

The British Business Bank is a government-owned business development bank, aimed at helping smaller businesses.

The committee also said the best way to promote the wider take up of AI was “put ethics at the centre of AI’s development”.

“The UK contains leading AI companies, a dynamic academic research culture, and a vigorous start-up ecosystem as well as a host of legal, ethical, financial and linguistic strengths,” Clement-Jones said.

“We should make the most of this environment, but it is essential that ethics take centre stage in AI’s development and use.”

He also said the public sector should use targeted procurement to provide a boost to AI development and deployment.

The committee highlighted evidence from umbrella group TechUK, which suggested that “the use of AI virtual agents across government departments and the public sector could save an estimated £4 billion a year”.

In the report, the Lords noted the use of AI in healthcare “offers significant opportunities” but said they were “concerned by the NHS’s lack of organisational preparedness to embrace new technology”.  

They warned where data was shared it should be done “in a manner which allows for that value to be recouped” otherwise the “benefits of deploying AI in the NHS will not be adopted or its benefits realised”.

The committee also suggested the education and training in the technology sector could be supported by: expanding public funding for PhD places in AI and machine learning, training children at early stages of education in AI and the rapid roll out of the National Centre for Computing, which was announced in the Autumn Budget last year. 

Clement-Jones said: “For all children, the basic knowledge and understanding necessary to navigate an AI-driven world will be essential.

“In particular, we recommend that the ethical design and use of technology becomes an integral part of the curriculum.” 

The theme of this year’s CIPFA conference in July this year, to be held in Bournemouth, is Mapping the digital future. 

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