Last week, the UK Government published its response to the December 2020 Report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, “AI in the UK: No Room for Complacency” (“HoL Report”). The House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, chaired by Lord Tim Clement-Jones, examined the progress made by the Government to date in implementing the recommendations from its previous 2018 Report (“AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”).
The HoL Report in particular recommended action by the Government, and called for it to “better coordinate its artificial intelligence (AI) policy and the use of data and technology” on a national and local level, and “lead the way on making ethical AI a reality,” so as to ensure that progress made to date is built upon and opportunities offered by AI are realised.
We summarise in the bullets below the direct responses provided by the Government to the further recommendations proposed in the HoL Report (in italics below), which will be of interest to businesses and individuals across all sectors of the economy who use or are affected by the use of AI.
Public understanding and data
The HoL Report encouraged the Government to lead the way in taking active steps to ensure greater public understanding around data and the use of AI, stating that it is no longer enough to expect this to be learnt passively. It called for policy development, particularly as regards safeguarding the use of data (e.g. data trusts), to pick up pace so as to avoid being overtaken by technological developments. The AI Council should also inform policy development in a timely manner, and the Government should be receptive to its recommendations.
- The Government acknowledges that it is crucial to develop the public’s understanding and trust in AI, stating that the National Data Strategy is actively ensuring members of the public become “responsible data citizens”.
- The National Data Strategy has also been working to understand the problems with, and create incentives for, data availability in the economy, and the Government is shortly due to publish its position on this, including appropriate areas for Government intervention that will inform a data availability policy framework.
- The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (“DCMS”) is delivering a £2.6m project to address barriers to data sharing in order to support innovation and competition in the detection of data and online harms.
- The Government also referenced the AI Council’s ‘AI Roadmap’, the Open Data Institute’s work on Data Trusts and the AI Council/Ada Lovelace Institute’s soon to be published legal framework for data governance.
Ethics and Ethical AI
The HoL Report pressed the Government to lead the way on the operationalisation of ethical AI, stating that the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (“CDEI”) should be responsible for both this and the publication of national standards for the ethical development and deployment of AI.
- The Government has made tools available on GOV.UK to support the safe use of algorithms (which includes a ‘Data Ethics Framework’ tool), and in the public sector, the Government Digital Service is now exploring the development of a mechanism to provide more transparency when using algorithm assisted decision-making.
- With respect to the CDEI, its future role will include AI monitoring and testing potential interventions in the tech landscape, and its most recent report ‘Bias in Algorithmic Decision Making’, which contains a number of concrete recommendations for the Government, is due a Government response shortly.
The HoL Report expressed concerns around complacency which could mean that the UK workforce is unequipped and not sufficiently trained with the relevant skills to participate in jobs of the future.
- A number of Governmental departments, such as the DCMS, the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) and the Department for Education have been tasked with anticipating the effects of automation in their respective fields and are developing retraining programmes and initiatives to assist transitions in workforce (the ‘Future of Work’ Government policy). The Government is also seeking to support workers through retraining programmes, such as AI apprenticeships, the Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund and the adaptation of the welfare system to assist those in transitioning between non-automated professions to automated professions.
- The Government however states that overall AI is expected to displace 75 million jobs globally but create 133 million new jobs between 2018-2022, meaning it will be a net ‘job creator’ of 58 million new jobs. Statistics suggest around 7.5% of UK jobs could be at high risk of automation.
Public Trust and Regulation
The HoL Report emphasised the role of sector-specific regulators in identifying gaps and publishing guidance, however noting that the CDEI and Office for AI can play a cross-cutting role along with the ICO to provide upskilling and training for regulators, stating that such training should be rolled out by July 2021.
- The CMA, the ICO and Ofcom have together formed a Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum to support regulatory coordination in digital markets, cooperation on areas of mutual importance, and regulation of the UK digital economy.
- The Office for AI, CDEI, ICO and others sit on a larger Regulators and AI working group, comprising 32 regulators and other organisations. This forum will be used to discuss how to take forward the recommendations made in the HoL Report, and a special subgroup chaired by the ICO will identify gaps and consider training needs, however no commitment is made by the Government to roll out training by the proposed date in the HoL Report.
- The Government, through its Online Harms White Paper, is pressing ahead with legislation to establish a new online harms regulatory framework, which will (i) seek to establish a new duty of care on companies towards their users, backed by an independent regulator, and (ii) set out the Government’s online media literacy strategy.
The role of Government
The HoL Report called for better coordination within the Government bodies currently responsible for AI and a new Cabinet committee that is responsible for the overall Government AI Policy, which should publish a 5 year AI strategy, and as part of this, should consider whether the existing bodies are sufficient.
- The responsibility for AI policy and driving uptake across the economy is split across the DCMS and BEIS, however the responsibility for uptake across the Government lies with the Government Digital Service. The Government states that it considers all departments should understand the benefits of AI and have shared responsibility. It is however now considering recommendations from the AI Council to develop a national cross-departmental strategy.
Chief Data Officer(s)
The HoL Report called for the immediate appointment of Chief Data Officer to champion AI opportunities and ensure the embedding of AI understanding and safe use of data across the public service.
- As of February 2021, the Government has appointed three senior Digital, Data and Technology leaders: Paul Willmott will Chair a new Central Digital and Data Oﬃce (CDDO) for the Government; Joanna Davinson has been appointed the Executive Director of CDDO and Tom Read has been appointed as CEO of the Government Digital Service.
Autonomy Development Centre / Defence
The HoL Report highlighted that the work of the Autonomy Development Centre will be inhibited owing to the lack of alignment of the UK’s definition of autonomous weapons with the definitions used by international partners.
- There is an acknowledgment that the various definitions relating to autonomous systems are challenging, and the response sets out a comparison of these.
- The Ministry of Defence is preparing to publish a new Defence AI Strategy, which will allow the UK to participate in international debates and act as a leader in the space, and the definitions will be continually reviewed as part of this. An AI centre within Defence will be established to accelerate the research and implementation of world leading AI.
UK as world Leader
While the UK has made positive steps to be seen as a world leader in AI, the HoL Report states that the UK must promote the immigration of top researchers as well as students, and ensure that businesses can maintain a presence in the UK.
- The Government has, this month, launched a new fast-track visa scheme (the ‘Global Talent’ route) to attract top scientists and researchers across the world to the UK.
- Despite the UK’s recent departure from the EU, the UK will associate with Horizon Europe, the EU research and innovation programme, which will give UK researchers and businesses access to funding on equivalent terms to organisations in the EU. The UK also signed the ‘Declaration of the USA and the UK Cooperation in AI’ with the US, which provides a basis for future collaboration between the US and the UK in the area of Artificial Intelligence.
- On 27 November 2020, the Government announced a £20 million Government investment to deliver Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships.
- The UK is considered the second most likely destination for AI researchers to work in, over the next three years, with 35% choosing the UK. The US is number 1 with 58%.
The above dialogue is highly relevant for both businesses and individuals operating and living in the UK and will no doubt be followed with interest. In particular, as the COVID pandemic has accelerated the move towards technologies such as AI, the Government’s drive to promote economic growth and job creation as part of the recovery will heighten the importance of the issues raised further. DLA Piper will continue to monitor this dialogue and how any recommendations are put into practice, and will provide further updates in due course.
Please contact the authors or your regular DLA Piper contact for any questions you may have about this article or AI generally (including using and contracting for AI).
 However, it is worth noting that this figure and the overall impact of automation on the job market is highly unsettled, as also flagged by the House of Lords Committee in their Report (para 45). See the following link for a summation of a number of studies that have been conducted to date: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2019/07/15/is-ai-going-to-be-a-jobs-killer-new-reports-about-the-future-of-work/?sh=b76a464afb24