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Britain can be a world leader in Artificial Intelligence

3 min read

As Co-chair of the APPG on Data Analytics, I was pleased to participate in the launch of a report – Our Place Our Data: Involving Local People in Data and AI Based Recovery – that took place in early April.

The inquiry involved policy experts across academia and industry and took a crucial place-based approach through the sponsorship and involvement of The Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Our Place Our Data is a report that is timely and to the point. It addresses the critical question of trust in technology: drawing out the importance of citizen trust in enabling us to have stunning human-led, human-enabled, tech-augmented solutions. These issues of trust are close to my heart and were key in our work on the the House of Lords AI Select Committee, leading to the Liaison Committee’s report last year AI in the UK – no room for complacency, concluding that ethical AI is the only sustainable way forward. 

This work by the APPGDA speaks to the build back better and levelling-up agendas, by examining how the UK can best harness the tremendous power of data and digital technology. Our Place Our Data outlines practical recommendations to achieve the human-led and trusted data-driven technological advances we need and are capable of. The first strand is about how and where that critical element of trust can best be fostered and built on. Unsurprisingly, the inquiry concluded that this can best be achieved close to the citizen, by institutions that know their locality and communities.  

The second strand is about facilitating a strong, trust-based and locally-led digital economy through a more equal partnership between central government and local areas, with frameworks for Ministers to hear from and make decisions jointly with the players that make things happen on the ground. The report recommends that the government should – as it proposes in the draft National Data Strategy – establish the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation in statute, reporting independently to Parliament.

In addition, we recommend that a duty to work with regions and nations is included in the legislation, setting the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation firmly part of the levelling-up agenda by providing local places with the enduring support they need. This would leave no doubt about the government’s intent that the UK should grow as an ethically data-driven nation as part of levelling up the country post-Covid-19. 

The UK is in a fantastic position to mature as a global leader in AI

Our citizens can be best served by creating a strong partnership between the national and local and Our Place Our Data has recommended this happens formally in relation to driving the digital economy, in a cabinet committee that includes Mayors and other local politicians. It would be positive to see national and regional politicians working together to make the UK a world leader in the development of data-driven technologies – as well as ensuring the levelling up agenda is at the heart of national growth.

The Government has already made welcome advances in expanding our policy and understanding of AI and data, but we need to act fast. The UK is in a fantastic position to mature as a global leader in AI and data-driven technologies, as we enter a crucial stage in the development of tech-focussed policy. If we now focus our efforts around building public trust at a local level, as envisaged in our report, and working hand in hand with local areas, we can create the right framework to give the public the trust and the confidence in these fantastic new technologies and aid in our path to a Covid-19 recovery.

Lord Holmes is co-chair of APPG on Data Analytics

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