UK launches plan to develop leading AI Standards

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On 12 January 2022, the UK government announced a pilot of a new AI Standards Hub. The hope is that the Hub will lead to creation of globally recognised technical and governance standards for artificial intelligence (AI). This Hub will be led by the Alan Turing Institute. It will be supported by the British Standards Institution (BSI) and National Physical Laboratory (NPL), and is backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Office for AI (OAI).

1. What is the objective?

The UK government aims to put the UK at the forefront of AI, improve AI governance, complement pro-innovation regulation, and unlock the huge economic potential of AI and machine-learning technologies to boost investment and employment in the UK. This Hub is just one part of the UK's National AI Strategy, established to that end. This is one of the first national efforts to develop such standards. The hope is that the resulting standards will become a model for global AI initiatives.

2. What will the pilot cover?

Full details are limited at this stage. However, at this initial stage the AI Standards Hub's pilot phase appears to focus on creating structures for know-how sharing and supporting organisations with greater training and tools. In particular, the pilot will involve:

  • AI standards information/tools: Growing UK engagement to develop global AI standards, by bringing together information about technical standards and development initiatives in an accessible, user-friendly and inclusive way.
  • Engagement in global AI standards development: Encouraging more coordinated engagement in the development of standards around the world, by bringing the AI community together through workshops, events and a new online platform.
  • Educational materials: Helping businesses and other organisations to engage with creating AI technical standards and collaborate globally to develop these standards, by creating tools and guidance for education, training and professional development.
  • International collaboration on AI standards: Exploring international collaboration with similar initiatives to ensure that the development of technical standards are shaped by a wide range of AI experts, in line with shared values.

Ahead of the pilot’s launch, there will be a series of roundtables with a wide range of organisations led by the Alan Turing Institute to shape the Hub’s activities.

3. Any other useful background?

Developments under the UK National AI Strategy are proceeding apace. In November 2021, the UK Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) published a standard for algorithmic transparency, for UK public sector/government bodies. Completed templates will be published online.

Of course, trust is critical to driving the adoption of AI. In December 2021, the UK Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) published the roadmap to an effective AI assurance ecosystem. The aim is to build a world-leading assurance ecosystem in the UK to assess the trustworthiness of AI systems.

4. Why does this matter?

This is an important first step towards the development of nationally or internationally recognised technical and governance standards for AI, particularly for the private sector. And this comes quickly on the heels of the publication of the UK National AI Strategy. This demonstrates the importance being placed on developing the UK as a global leader for AI.

The information, tools and educational materials to be produced by the AI Standards Hub should be useful to organisations seeking to develop or deploy AI solutions, so Hub developments should be monitored. Organisations should also consider participating in the Hub's roundtables, platform and activities in order to influence its priorities and output.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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