The UK government published an AI Roadmap, developed by the UK AI Council to help shape the UK government’s strategic direction on AI on 6 January 2021. Over 100 experts fed into the independent report that sets out 16 recommendations to help the government develop a UK National AI Strategy across four pillars:

  1. Research, Development & Innovation
  2. Skills & Diversity
  3. Data Infrastructure & Public Trust
  4. Specific measures to support adoption and the key areas of health, climate and defence

The Roadmap aims to cement the UK as “one of the very best places in the world to live with, work with and develop AI”, with two underlying messages:

  • The UK needs to “double-down” on recent investment in AI
  • The UK must “look to the horizon and be adaptable to disruption”

In terms of regulating AI, the Roadmap states that the UK needs to “develop a world-class enabling environment with strong but flexible legislation and well-resourced, capable regulators able to provide responsive guidance and timely oversight”. One of the 16 key recommendations include positioning the UK with respect to other major AI nations, noting that the UK has a crucial opportunity to become a global lead in good governance, standards and frameworks for AI and enhance bilateral cooperation with key actors.

The Roadmap advocates an approach to regulating AI that balances the interests of businesses to innovate with public trust in AI. The Roadmap states that “developing and deploying trustworthy AI will be dependent on the UK strengthening its governing environment in a manner that both provides guidance and confidence to businesses to innovate and adopt AI, and reassures the public that the use of AI is safe, secure, fair, ethical and duly overseen by independent entities”. In terms of public trust, the key recommendations include ensuring public trust through public scrutiny, noting that the UK needs to lead in finding ways to enable public scrutiny of, and input into, automated decision-making.

The Roadmap notes that systems of governance will need to respond and adapt more frequently and suggests “commissioning an independent entity to provide recommendations on the next steps in the evolution of governance mechanisms, including impact and risk assessments, best practice principles, ethical processes and institutional mechanisms”.

In terms of enforcement, the Roadmap notes that there is a need for the UK to continue to invest in data specific regulatory capacity and algorithmic accountability to cover advisory, enforcement and regulatory landscapes. With regulators in different sectors working together to experiment with new ways to encourage safe AI innovation across and within their remits.

The recommendations from the Roadmap will feed into the UK National AI Strategy, along with earlier recommendations made by the Select Committee on AI in its 2018 report “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”  With the European Commission due to publish its legislative proposal covering safety, liability, fundamental rights and data aspects of AI this year, it will be interesting to see what approach the UK takes.

Posted by Tracey Bischofberger