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National approach to regulating AI ‘a priority’

25/11/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI) is making a priority of setting out a national approach for regulating the use of the technology, its head official has said.

Cyborg woman looking at AI logo

Sana Khareghani was speaking at the UKAuthority AI & Bots4Good virtual conference, outlining the prime elements of the recently published National AI Strategy.

She highlighted some of the actions to take the strategy forwards, saying that for the next 12 months and beyond it is crucial to set out the governance regime effectively.

“We know that internationally it is a conversation that is being had everywhere,” she said. “The EU has come out with its regulations around AI and it is time for the UK to really find its national position on this.

“We will be publishing a white paper on a pro-innovation national position on governing and regulating AI, as well as piloting an AI standards hub to co-ordinate UK engagement in AI standardisation.”

Khareghani’s presentation also highlighted actions for the next three months, including the publication of a delivery monitoring plan for the national strategy and a framework for government’s role in enabling better data availability in the wider economy.

For the medium term – broadly the six to 12 months – the plans include working with the Alan Turing Institute to update guidance on AI ethics and safety in the public sector.

Need for specific approaches

She also said that, while the strategy has to be closely aligned with others for the UK economy, such as the National Data Strategy and Innovation Strategy, it is better to have individual approaches for specific areas of technology and the economy.

“I’m often asked why we have so many and from my perspective it is much better than having a master strategy,” she said. “We want to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future and ensure the country has an advantage, so we need to have focused strategies on specific areas and problems, bringing government, industry and academia together to make a difference.

“We know that approach works – we’ve had the Industrial Strategy and Grand Challenges – and by having separate strategies on data, innovation and AI, sitting together with others, we can build back better and ensure the medium and long term strategic issues are spread and led by specialist teams across government, rather than being the responsibility of one overworked department or minister.”

Published in September, the strategy includes an emphasis on the public sector having key roles through its procurement and as an exemplar in developing the UK’s AI capacity.

The Office for Artificial Intelligence is a joint unit of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport responsible for overseeing implementation of the strategy.

Image from iStock, Andrey Suslov

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