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Committee to investigate AI’s impact on public sector ethics

28/03/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has announced a review of the impact of artificial intelligence on standards across the public sector.

Two robot hands touching

The group, which advises the prime minister on ethical standards in the public sector, said it will look into whether the existing frameworks and regulations are sufficient to ensure that high standards of conduct are upheld as technologically assisted decision making is adopted more widely.

The review’s terms of reference point to it examining how standards can be built into the development and deployment of new technologies in the public sector, and the extent to which AI has implications for the Seven Principles of Public Life, which apply to any public office holder in the UK.

It also aims to make recommendations for how standards can be maintained where advanced technologies are increasingly used for service delivery, including best practice guidance and regulatory change where necessary.

Chair of the committee Lord Evans said: "Honest, integrity, objectivity, openness, leadership, selflessness and accountability were first outlined by Lord Nolan as the standards expected of those who act on the public’s behalf.

Test of time

“These principles have stood the test of time and are deeply embedded across much of the public sector - from the Civil Service and NHS bodies to local councils and schools. The increasing development and use of data and data enabled technologies in our public services can potentially bring huge advantages in terms of pace and scale of service delivery, but there are some major ethical and practical challenges about what this means for accountability, objectivity and the other Nolan principles.”

He added that the committee is keen to hear from individuals and organisations developing policy, systems or safeguards on the use of AI.

It expects to publish its report next year.

The announcement reflects rising concerns about the implications of AI for public services. It has come a few days after the launch of a separate inquiry by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and the Cabinet Office into the potential for bias in the use of AI.

Image from iStock

 

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