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National AI Strategy of the UK: With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility

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If data is the new ‘oil’, AI is the ‘new electricity’, according to Andrew Ng. Technology companies. With the publication of the National AI Strategy, the UK Government encourages all organizations to use AI. They want companies to make it accessible for every application, business process, and employee. Is this approach feasible? Do we need an AI solution for every business challenge, and how can we achieve this? What does this mean for the IT departments of the future?

The National AI Strategy, summarized

The UK Government priotises AI in its policies, and released a National AI Strategy in September 2021. The National AI Strategy follows the European Commission’s footsteps, which produced a White Paper on AI in February 2020. Both seek to move “towards an ecosystem for excellence and trust” in AI policy and regulation. The EU and UK AI Strategies are founded on respective EU and UK initiatives in Big Data Strategy.

The UK ranks third in the Global AI Index rankings, after the United States and China (Tortoise Media, 2021). In 2020, UK firms that adopted or made AI-based technologies received US$2.45 billion in funding (Tech Nation, 2021), around £1.7bn.

Why is AI considered so important by the UK and the EU?

AI is a transformative technology that can bring significant benefits to the UK and the world. It provides a promise for sustainability and green technology. Likewise, it empowers people by facilitating accessibility.

It is encouraging to see issues such as trustworthy AI being included as part of the UK’s National AI Strategy. Our founder, Jen Stirrup, is passionate about diversity in the workforce. She has written before on reconciling AI with low-code technologies to help remove diversity and inclusion barriers.

Notwithstanding, Artificial Intelligence cannot belong to one group of people alone. AI holds promise in sustainability, diversity and inclusion, healthcare, and technological equality. Therefore it is crucial to represent views from across society at the forefront of the strategy. That this forms one of the core points of the plan is one of the positives of the National AI Strategy.

With Great Power, Great Responsibility

We cannot deny that AI is powerful. We must also remember that with such power comes with great responsibility. Fortunately, the UK Government’s strategy highlights the need for careful thought on the longer-term challenges that AI may pose for businesses and teams.

The UK Government is taking a leadership position in recognizing its duty to anticipate and manage risks. With that said, there is a long road ahead. Here are some priorities which we at Data Relish would like to see.

We’d like to see promises upheld on the provision of strong AI investments in academia. 

From an academic perspective, the UK Government has made substantial commitments to AI research and boosting academic cloud computing capacity. But the UK government needs to make good on these commitments with essential funding in the upcoming Spending Review. Without significant investment, the UK will be left behind.

Low Code solutions can help to make your AI work.

We’d like to see more effort to include low-code solutions as part of a wider AI technology estate. These solutions can bring quick wins for businesses. This will also support diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The IT department of the future needs a well-educated workforce.

The Government’s strategy needs to do more to highlight the state of AI and computer science education in UK schools. Technology education in the UK is woeful at the secondary school level; some schools have even dropped it altogether, since it drags down their overall scores in the schools’ league tables. This educational strategy is incredibly myopic. If AI is so crucial to the future, why are teenagers disadvantaged in such a vital area at the secondary school level? AI and computer science are as essential as English and Maths in today’s educational landscape.

Our founder, Jen Stirrup, has voluntarily supported local schools by leading classes on Python, while encouraging schoolgirls to take up STEM careers. But the education system cannot rely on the good will of volunteers. Businesses can work with their local Chambers of Commerce to help direct local training efforts. In this way, people won’t be left behind in learning the ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ skills of technology and AI. We do this ourselves for our team members at Data Relish.

AI Accessibility Is Not the Same as AI Democracy

Additionally, the AI Roadmap calls for thought leadership so that AI ethics and trust can keep pace with progress in science and technology. This puts the UK at the vanguard of integrating strategies to ethics, security, and social consequences in the evolution of AI now and in the future. Nobody can be left behind. As there has been a ‘digital divide’ in technology, we must avoid the ‘AI divide’ as society moves forward. Moreover, we must always bear in mind the power and pervasiveness of such technologies. An AI ‘democracy’ needs to ensure that everyone has equal access to AI and equal power to understand the decisions that AI can make.

AI accessibility can impact your workforce and your teams. With the datafication of the workplace and suspicions over remote working, business leaders need to reconcile a need to implement new technologies and AI strategies — but must seriously consider the impact on teams. Education is important. Team leaders must understand too that team members have to know what’s in it for them. At this point, empathetic leadership builds loyalty while meeting business objectives. 

AI can impact people, profit, and the planet. Let's make it a good impact - together.

At Data Relish, we are pleased to see the focus on AI after such a long time. Since Jen left for Paris in 1997 to study postgraduate AI at the Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, in Paris, it has been a long time coming! Let us consider how to balance social and corporate responsibility for AI strategy and implementation.

Let's Make Your Data Work

With over twenty years’ experience in AI and Business Intelligence, Jen and the team at Data Relish have designed, implemented and achieved at all stages of the BI to AI maturity journey. If you’d like to discuss data strategy or AI strategy, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We have written on AI for some time now. It is good to see that our previous AI strategy predictions are coming true. We look forward to working with you on AI strategy or even a data strategy to get you started. Here we enjoy looking at problems from different angles and we will walk with you on this AI journey.

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