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BCS advocates that unethical tech leaders should be ‘struck off’


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Alastair Revell
Alastair Revell
Image source: BCS

Practitioners in AI and other high stakes tech roles should be publicly registered and held to account in the same way as solicitors or doctors, according to BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

It has published a manifesto, Computing Revolution, for the next Government, saying that tech experts and leaders should be ‘struck off’ for unethical behaviour.

It added it would set an example by revoking chartered status from any of its members found in breach of its code of conduct at the conclusion of the statutory Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry this year.

The manifesto outlines three main priorities for the party winning the general election of 4 July.

Registration for accountability

The first is that anyone with a significant role in IT should prove their accountability by being professionally registered. This includes leaders who use technology in critical national infrastructure like health, defence and other public services. In practice this means being chartered, as is expected for accountants.

Second is that every UK child and adult must have access to world class computing and digital education. This would come with the provision of a GCSE option in applied computer science, teaching practical ways in which computing can be used safely and responsibly. There is also a need for a new digital literacy qualification, equivalent to the GCSE.

Third is that closing the diversity gap in information technology can solve many of its issues around trust, bias and safety – over 500,000 women are ‘missing’ from the profession. People over 50 and people with disabilities are also under-represented.

Ethical challenge

Alastair Revell, president of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “Whoever comes to power this summer will preside over the rapid adoption of AI and the challenge of unlocking its benefits safely and ethically.

“How do you know who the good people making decisions about this technology really are? They should be the ones prepared to subscribe to the public register after an assessment of their ethical values and technical competence; in the full knowledge, that if they are found wanting, we will remove them. Sanctions with teeth make it meaningful to be an AI professional and build public trust in tech as a force for good.

“The Post Office inquiry and related cases are a powerful example of this. If, when these investigations conclude, any member is found wanting under our code of conduct then BCS will take immediate disciplinary action.

“But even when BCS does that, we can’t stop people from practising, because we don’t regulate them.

“I would like to see the future government make chartered status a licence to practice in key areas of computing, like AI. This effectively turns removal from the register into an act of being struck off for good.

“Unlike a driving licence, we also need that registration to be renewed regularly to ensure competence in a rapidly evolving profession.”

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