Australia and NZ sign global agreement for trustworthy AI

Published on the 29/05/2019 | Written by Heather Wright

OECD sign_trustworthy AI

Includes AI R&D recommendations…

Government funded AI research and development and the fostering of a digital ecosystem for AI are among the principles the New Zealand and Australian governments have agreed to as part of a new OECD push.

Australia and New Zealand were among 42 countries who signed on to the OECD Principals on Artificial Intelligence – effectively the world’s first intergovernmental policy guidelines for AI, developed by more than 50 international and multidisciplinary experts.

The guidelines are aimed at ensuring AI systems are designed to be robust, safe, fair and trustworthy and come as both New Zealand and Australia focus more attention on the ethics of AI.

The onus is on governments to ensure that AI systems are designed so people can trust that their safety and privacy will be paramount.

In Australia, CSIRO’s Data61 circulated a discussion paper, Artificial Intelligence: Australia’s Ethics Framework, late last year, while in New Zealand The Law Foundation last week called for the establishment of a new independent regulator – and guidelines – to oversee the use of algorithms in government.

The OECD agreement has even won the support of Donald Trump’s administration – something of a rarity – in a first for the US in endorsing international guidelines for the technology. The US move to support the agreement follows the release of the American AI Initiative in February.

The OECD guidelines come amid increasing discussions about ensuring AI is ethical, and questions over bias and, in keeping with the OECD’s ‘soft power’ approach, are non-binding.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría  says while AI is revolutionising the way we live and work, and offering extraordinary benefits for our societies and economies, it also raises new challenges and is fuelling anxieties and ethical concerns.

“This puts the onus on governments to ensure that AI systems are designed in a way that respects our values and laws, so people can trust that their safety and privacy will be paramount,” Gurría says. “These Principles will be a global reference point for trustworthy AI so that we can harness its opportunities in a way that delivers the best outcomes for all.”

The Principals on Artificial Intelligence guidelines call for governments to facilitate long-term public and private investment to spur innovation in trustworthy AI, including the creation of open and representative datasets to address concerns about bias, interoperability and privacy.

Fostering a digital ecosystem for AI, with digital infrastructure and technologies and mechanisms to share data and knowledge is also recommended, along with enabling a policy environment to open the way for deployment of trustworthy AI systems.

Building human capacity and preparing for labour market transformation through equipping people with the skills for AI and supporting workers is also recommended. Co-operating across borders to ensure responsible stewardship of trustworthy AI is also touted, with the OECD recommending governments work together to share knowledge and develop global technical standards.

The document also serves up five (somewhat fluffy) principals for responsible AI stewardship:

  • Inclusive growth, sustainable development and well-being
  • Human-centred values and fairness
  • Transparency and explainability
  • Robustness, security and safety
  • Accountability

The new guidelines are among a slew of offerings being pumped out globally. The European Commission presented their own ethics guidelines for AI earlier this year,  while the Toronoto Declaration also aims to ‘protect the right to equality and non-discrimination in machine learning systems’.  Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission also launched a proposed model AI governance framework in January 2019.

The new OECD guidelines however aim to be global guidelines – and they’re already winning support. As well as the 36 OECD nations, six non-member nations (Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Romania, Peru and Costa Rica) have also signed on to the agreement.

China, which is also pushing heavily into AI, is not a member of the OECD and hasn’t signed on.

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