UK can become “pioneer of responsible AI innovation” but must boost business uptake
Government urged to prioritise the development of industry ethical frameworks to boost business confidence and make the UK a global pioneer in responsible AI innovation - ahead of the inaugural UK AI Safety Summit.
Nearly half of SMEs (43%) do not plan to innovate with AI in the next year, largely because of a lack of confidence among business owners in the safeguards in place to protect society — according to new research by the UK’s data and marketing industry trade body.
Ahead of the inaugural UK AI Safety Summit, which will run from 1-2 November, the UK Government has been urged by industry to grasp its unique opportunity to become a global pioneer in responsible AI innovation.
Of those SMEs who do plan to innovate with AI within the next 12 months, 40% believe current regulation does not offer sufficient safeguards for its development. Just under a fifth (17%) are in a position where they plan to innovate and believe current regulation is sufficient.
These findings come from the Data & Marketing Association’s (DMA UK) new report: ‘Data Horizons: How UK SMEs and Consumers View the Future of Privacy Regulation’. Exploring the viewpoints of SME business owners and the UK public on key issues at the heart of the evolving digital economy, it revealed strong demand among SMEs for responsible AI innovation and safeguards to protect society.
“The inaugural Global AI Summit has laid the foundations for the UK to become a pioneer in how to drive responsible AI innovation”, said Rachel Aldighieri, MD of the DMA. “To achieve this, industry leaders and government must first work together to build industry ethical frameworks founded on core values such as accountability, transparency, and public safety and trust, to ensure AI’s development remains a force for good and businesses become more confident to innovate in this space.”
Over three quarters (76%) of SME business owners believe the UK Government should introduce regulation to mitigate the ethical risks of AI.
“The DMA supports the UK Government’s proposals to build on existing regulatory expertise and legislation, to establish a set of core principles to guide regulators across their respective sectors. Regulation will always have an important role to play to deter rogue organisations, but it must supplement an industry-led governance initiative,” added Aldighieri. “A stringent regulation-first approach could stifle innovation and show mistrust to businesses when most have genuine intentions for AI’s development — they just need more direction, support, and structure from industry leaders and regulators to help them to use AI effectively and responsibly.”
AI’s key benefits and threats
For SMEs and consumers, the main perceived benefit of AI technologies is that it will improve training and development. Over a quarter (28%) of SME owners and nearly a fifth (17%) of consumers stated this.
Alarmingly, just 15% of SME owners stated it will be a boost to the UK economy as a key benefit, which suggests government must work with industry bodies to help upskill and educate businesses on the opportunities gained from AI innovation.
The main concern consumers have around AI is the reduction of jobs, with more than a third stating this (37%); followed by privacy and information (34%), societal detriment (27%), and national security (24%). Surprisingly, a fifth (20%) have no concerns around AI.
Despite these range of concerns, there is high consumer confidence (66%) in UK regulatory bodies’ ability to keep up with emerging technology.
“It is encouraging to see high levels of confidence among the UK public in our regulators, as the importance of regulation can never be underestimated. However, to supercharge the potential economic and societal benefits associated with responsible AI innovation, government must now facilitate a values-driven, agile approach through ethical industry frameworks,” concluded Aldighieri. “The DMA community believes the human-AI team is our best future, with AI operating as a tool that humans use to assist and enhance our own abilities. This will certainly alter job opportunities among the public, but it must not diminish them. Ultimately, we must never forget the people AI is intended to serve.”