“We are the biggest digital country in Europe and London is the AI venture capital of Europe”
These were the words from UK Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage MP, in a global live web broadcast conversation with Co-Chair of the APPG AI, Stephen Metcalfe MP
Big Innovation Centre was the organiser of the conversation which took place on
Tuesday 21st of July 2020, 2pm.
The Minister highlighted:
- The need for an International response to solve some the biggest economic, societal and ethical questions around AI adoption and governance.
- How investment into AI technologies in the UK has been holding up well during the pandemic, and how the demand of AI technologies has multiplied for a range of sectors from cybersecurity to e-health.
- How the Government is working across departments to seize the opportunity for AI adoption in businesses, the public sector and society, and to mitigate the risks, especially through building a Roadmap for AI and designing up-skilling programmes for the nation.
The Minister acknowledged to the Co-Chair of APPG AI Stephen Metcalfe, during his (“In Conversation With”)-interview of her, that she is “grateful for all the work that you and your [APPG AI] team are doing … because it helps coordinate our own thinking on how we move forward as effectively and efficiently as possible”.
SUMMARY OF CONVERSATION: “We are the biggest digital country in Europe and London is the AI venture capital of Europe”
International response is important
“Unless we have an international response to the deployment and governance of AI technology, not only with regard to the pandemic but also looking at other issues, the challenges will become insurmountable”, said the Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage MP.
As the early membership-supporter of the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) of which the OECD is the Secretariat, the UK supports the ethical drivers that brought it about. Other members include France, Canada, Australia, the European Union, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, and USA.
The Minister said, “it will enable to help address some of the global challenges” and “an international response that spans both the deployment and indeed the governance of, AI technology”.
AI is a driver to solve the big problems, but we need to understand the risks
To cope with the controversies that surround the safe deployment of AI, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is convening a diverse panel of experts that will advise DCMS on the implementation of their digital strategy and focus on UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Minister said, “For so long there has been the perception that the motivating factor behind AI and the digital footprint around the world has been all about money and global superiority. But actually, it’s got a key role in seeking to solve some of the big ethical problems that we face”.
She then went on to discuss the global issues from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to the practical challenges in the adoption of AI.
The minister described the deployment of face and emotion recognition technologies as “really tricky” and “quite a contentious bit of technology”. For this reason, the government has commissioned a briefing paper. It is a fine balance “between recognising the opportunities, and also understanding the risks”.
AI is supporting the post COVID-19 economic and societal recovery
“We saw investment [into AI] holding up fairly well during this pandemic and you know we have huge aspirations to really continue to build on that, and to continue to support the incredible businesses and entrepreneurs in this space, who are really very globally world-beating” stressed the Minister, and continued:
“It is important to understand how the AI ecosystem can continue to prosper and can capitalise on some of the demand for digital technologies and keep us in a globally competitive position as we emerge from the crisis.”
She mentioned how the recent lock-down has multiplied demand for AI in sectors as e-health, cybersecurity, education-tech, gaming, and more, and that the government has begun to shift focus to the recovery from Covid-19, where the AI sector and the adoption of AI could play part. “AI technologies could really become part of the wider recovery process” she said, and she went on to explain how the AI Roadmap developed by the Office for AI – across Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – is one of the vehicles for this, and part of a collaborative effort.
Up-skilling of citizens is essential
“As a country, we’re only going to fill our own potential on the global scale, if we’re capitalising on the skills”. The Minister focused on the soft skills, and not only on the AI technology development skills for the AI sector, but in other areas where AI is adopted: “It’s about giving people the confidence and the resilience and the understanding to be able to access technology and be able to interact with it better.” … ”It’s about giving people skills and up-skilling people to be able to take financial benefits”.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is working on various programmes with the Department of Education and the Office for AI to up-skill citizens of different age groups and educational backgrounds. She provided the examples of an AI skills toolkit DCMS is developing with the Department of Education. Moreover, they are working with the Office for AI on launching a degree conversion programme in data science and AI. This programme, funded with £10 million will allocate scholarships to help students moving into the right skill set.
“When people are well-equipped, that reduces the fear of adopting new technologies” , said the UK Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage MP.