Scotland’s AI strategy stresses role of ethics and trust

Written by Jenni Davidson on 29 March 2021 in News
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Plan includes establishment of national AI alliance

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Trust and ethics are at the heart of the new artificial intelligence strategy for Scotland, published by the Scottish Government this week.

The strategy sets out the basic principles that will guide the development of AI and the actions that need to be taken over the next five years. The overall vision set out is for Scotland to become “a leader in the development and use of trustworthy, ethical and inclusive AI”.

The aim is to look beyond the technology to the role of AI in society.

It said: “Much of what we take for granted today happens because AI is working behind the scenes, driving change and technological innovation on an unprecedented scale. However, the use and adoption of AI should be on our terms if we are to build trust between the people of Scotland and AI.”

The strategy points out there are “real risks and concerns” that need to be addressed. AI decision-making can only be as good as the data and the algorithms that have been fed into it, the strategy said, so there can be concerns of bias arising from data or design and a lack of transparency in decision-making.


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Among the principles set out in the strategy is that AI should benefit people and planet, that “AI systems should be designed in a way that respects the rule of law, human rights, democratic values and diversity, and they should include appropriate safeguards” and that it should be transparent.

One outcome of the strategy will be the creation of an ‘AI Playbook’, which will be a practical guide to how AI is done in Scotland. Another outcome is the creation of the Scottish AI Alliance to provide leadership in this area.

Other actions set out in the strategy include community engagement to encourage non-tech businesses to adopt AI, establishing an ‘AI for good’ programme to help solve some of the challenges facing the country, upskilling and reskilling of the workforce, and the development of new data platforms and registers of trusted algorithms.

There will be annual reviews of progress at the end of each year.

Scottish Government finance secretary Kate Forbes said: “Artificial intelligence offers huge economic and social potential and with Scotland’s long history of academic excellence in its development we are building on strong foundations. But ensuring everyone benefits from the data-driven revolution is about more than technological capability. If AI is to be truly inclusive and have a positive impact on all of us – regardless of age or background – we need to be clear on its role in our society and ensure trust is the ultimate marker of success.

“This strategy sets out that vision, the principles that will guide us and the actions we will take to further strengthen our AI ecosystem. By achieving this, AI will play its part in making Scotland fairer, greener, more prosperous and more successful in the global marketplace.”

The strategy was developed in conjunction with the Data Lab, Scotland’s national innovation centre for data and AI, and the organisation’s chief executive Gillian Docherty has been named as the first chair of the Scottish AI Alliance.

She said: “It is a privilege to chair the Scottish AI Alliance and play my part in the delivery of the strategy, ensuring voices from across the country are heard. Through the collective leadership of the Alliance, we hope to tap into Scotland’s AI eco-system to encourage collaboration and innovation across sectors, to ultimately contribute to our economic, social and environmental outcomes. Our ‘Team Scotland’ approach puts people at the heart of driving the strategy, providing learning opportunities and creating strong connections that position our country as a global leader in AI development.”

 

About the author

Jenni Davidson is a journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where a version of this story first appeared. She tweets as @HolyroodJenni.

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