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Scottish Government mandates registration of public sector AI projects


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Scotland is to become the first part of the UK to make it mandatory to register any use of AI in the public sector.

The Scottish Government has announced that every relevant project will have to be logged on the Scottish AI Register, a publicly accessible database on the use of the technology in public sector projects.

It enables users to find information on AI systems used in the sector and to examine them in detail.

Registration is currently voluntary with public bodies encouraged to submit information, but it will become mandatory through a phased approach beginning with Scottish Government departments.

Ethics and transparency

Innovation Minister Richard Lochhead said: “With our world renowned talent for research, innovation and ingenuity, Scotland is perfectly placed to capitalise on the rapid growth of AI – but it must be used in a way that is open, ethical and transparent.

“From cancer diagnostics to helping our net zero journey, AI is a powerful and rapidly developing tool the public sector can use to help drive efficiency and deliver solutions.

“Making it mandatory for public sector use of AI to be registered will not only give the public increased confidence that AI is being used openly and transparently, but will also act as an increasingly powerful source of best practice, helping ensure AI is used in ways which is both economically and technically viable and makes a positive impact across society.”

AI is already being used across a range of public sector functions in Scotland, and among the organisations already on the register is the Scottish Childrens Reporter Administration (which deals with children and young people under compulsory supervision).

Up front and open

Its chief executive Neil Hunter said: “Scottish Childrens Reporter Administration felt that being part of the AI register was hugely important. As a public body working in a sensitive area of service delivery we wanted to be fully up front and open about our early exploratory work on potential future uses of technology that might have a positive impact on our skilled work.

“Our involvement in the register also unlocked a lot of support and advice from across Scottish Government and partners on issues of research and evidence, experience elsewhere from a national and global perspective – and most critically for us – access to expertise on issues of ethics, impact, rights and privacy.

“We are at a very early and exploratory stage – but registration has really helped us get access to the support and advice we need to ensure that any future journey is well informed and genuinely focussed on the public benefit.”

Public confidence

Jora Gill, CEO of ConnectingYouNow – an intelligent virtual concierge assistant that is on the register – said: “We started with those with sensory loss and those who are not digital experts. We therefore understand the critical importance of fostering transparency, ethics and trust in AI development and deployment.”

She added: “We believe this level of transparency is essential for building public confidence and driving innovation that serves citizens' best interests.

“We wholeheartedly support the Scottish Government's vision for the AI Register and look forward to continued collaboration to unlock AI's potential responsibly and transparently for public sector transformation.”

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