CBA, NAB, Telstra sign on for AI ethics principles trial

Australian minister for industry, science and technology confirms trial of eight principles aimed at driving more ethical development of artificial intelligence

Several Australian businesses including NAB, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and Microsoft are trialling a series of eight principles aimed at driving more ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI).

The Minister for Industry, Science and technology, Karen Andrews, today said the organisations will tap into the eight principles devised as part of the Morrison Government’s AI Ethics Framework.

The eight principles confirmed under the Morrison AI Ethics plan are: Human, social and environment well-being; human-centred values; fairness; privacy protection and security; reliability and safety; transparency and explainability; contestability; and accountability.

The principles came off the back of consultation across the country and a discussion paper released in April, which garnered 130 written responses from across industry, academia and individuals. While largely supportive of a principles-based approach to AI in Australia, respondents calls for an iterative and flexible framework, for it to up the ante on security, to ensure principles are supported by pragmatic guidance on how to apply them, and to consider supplementary regulations.

The principles also tie into the Australian Government and Human Rights Commission’s work into building an AI ethics and human framework, a $29 million project announced earlier this year aimed at help ensure AI innovation is more humane.

Organisations committed to the trial so far are NAB, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Microsoft and AI assistant software innovator, Flamingo AI. The principles have been designed as voluntary and to complement – if any - existing AI obligations and regulations.

“We need to make sure we’re working with the business community as AI becomes more prevalent. These principles encourage organisations to strive for the best outcomes for Australia and to practice the highest standards of ethical business,” said Minister Andrews.

Gaining agreement on these principles across business, government and academia is vital to set shared expectations about Australia’s AI future, Minister Andrews said.

“This is essential, as we build Australians’ trust that AI systems are safe, secure, reliable and will have a positive effect on their lives,” she said.

Telstra chief data officer, Noel Jarrett, said the ASX-listed telco is proud to be part of the AI ethics trial.

“There’s no doubt that AI can improve the experiences of our customers and our employees by making things simpler and easier,” he commented. “We want to make sure we’re using this technology in the right way from the start, and testing these principles will help guide us as we consider how to best use AI.”

In her presentation at last week’s CeBIT event in Sydney, Flamingo AI founder and chief, Dr Catriona Wallace, urged businesses and innovators to put diversity and ethical implications of AI development at the heart of efforts in order to ensure the revolutionary and disruptive technology is harnessed for human good.

During her presentation, Dr Wallace noted her participation in AI ethics work with the Australian Government and its importance given the lack of regulation and guidelines around AI today, along with the potential for all sorts of inherent and instilled bias to inform AI projects.

“The most important thing we can think about going forward is how do we – as the government and industry leaders try to figure this out – address this [bias question]. It’s incumbent upon us as business leaders to start to lead this, to think about diversity, and how we can build ethical AI so this third major disruptive force upon the world is one we’re actively doing something about,” Dr Wallace told CeBIT attendees.

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