• We appreciate the findings of the Report and declare our intention to work with key stakeholders to support building UK leadership in AI
  • A key mandate for IORMA is to identify and represent the interests of the consumer who will be impacted positively and negatively
  • We urge an algorithmic led policy framework to facilitate the development of AI engaging all the stakeholder groups involved in its development

IORMA brings together experts with a deep and broad experience of doing global business in order to foresee future trends whilst appreciating today’s realities. We are a neutral resource for Businesses and Governments that recognizes the need to understand and respond to the ways in which the 7.5 billion global consumers are changing – in the products and services they want and need, the way they pay for them, and the ways they want to obtain them.

These changes are happening globally, driven by developments in society, in business and in technology. The changes are important not only for all those dealing direct with consumers, but for businesses at all places in supply networks and for Governments and Academia in preparing for the future associated societal and economic impacts of these changes.

In this context we appreciate the transformational impact that AI has and will continue to have over the coming years. The pace of innovation is increasing and is becoming more targeted. We are fully supportive of the House of Lords’ working report on AI and would recommend that the invaluable work which has been undertaken so far to nurture AI is continued.

IORMA would be pleased to play a facilitation role in three key areas to support the development of AI; studying the impact on the consumer, supporting a consumer oriented development framework and aligning technological advancement with industrial opportunity.

IORMA is committed to understanding the impact of new technologies on the consumer. Looking at AI, impact priorities include the future of work, the future of cities and the future of wealth creation. In each of these areas, AI is likely to have positive and negative aspects – job gains and job losses; population shifts from country to city and pressures on an increase in household spend, without necessarily a consumer capability to be able to pay.

In our review, we have identified a number of potential impact priorities for the consumer – employment and the risk of mass unemployment, income and Universal Basic Income (UBI) and the risk of an increased polarisation of wealth in society based around ability to earn or inability to earn. There are real risks that the wealthier get wealthier and those at risk of marginalization in society are impacted negatively; people with learning difficulties, disabilities or income related difficulties. We would suggest that AI needs to be perceived to benefit all.

It is important for policymakers to appreciate the upsides and downsides of AI well in advance, in order to create alternatives for individual consumers. With regard to work this may involve re-skilling. In terms of urban development trends, impacting all economies, we envisage housing and IOT to create SMART cities.

“ Access to AI” in the context of living with AI is an important theme and in this regard IORMA is already taking steps to identify awareness, upskilling and learning needs which are specifically relevant for AI and the development of the broader economy. We would urge that such needs be fully reviewed and not underestimated.

Last but not least, despite all the new digital technologies which are emerging the consumer still has the same size of wallet, which prompts the question who is going to pay for advanced technological development. With this in mind access to AI as a right needs to be considered to avoid the risk of polarization in society – AI benefits all. There are country models which exist to support such development.

It is our belief that a development framework for AI will be more productive than regulation. We would encourage the government to look at opportunities around algorithmic led policy creation. The pace of technology is already fast and is expected to increase. New developments are being made on a daily basis. It is possible to predict policies which are required as a result of the development of AI. IORMA has identified three important areas of AI led growth:

Intelligent automation – improving production and logistics processes by using machines to fulfil routine, repetitive work

People and process enhancement – supporting existing technologies with increased precision – robotic automated surgery, situation simulation

Innovation optimization – using machines to combine strands of innovation to increase innovation potential – driverless cars, IOT and SMART cities

According to the Report, half the 1200 AI start-up companies in Europe are in the UK. IORMA welcomes the report as it acknowledges this highly successful sector in the UK economy and the need to encourage it. IORMA supports and encourages these agile and dynamic companies, many of whom harness disruptive technologies to create world beating products for a discriminating consumer.

We welcome the suggestion in the report that a proportion of the £2.5bn investment fund at the British Business Bank should be reserved as an AI growth fund for SMEs with a substantive AI component. This single move could protect the UK’s lead and build stronger companies capable of winning more business for the UK post Brexit. But there needs to be private-public advisory guidance to ensure a balanced portfolio of investments and that they are at the sharp edge of innovation to ensure AI is life enhancing for citizens and a tangible driver of economic growth.

Additionally, whilst the UK is investing in AI, we are focused on millions and not billions. We are doing very well in terms of research, measured by patents and licenses granted, yet are we falling short in industrial deployment? Currently the UK is currently ranked 22nd for the density of robots to humans within production industries, according to a recent International Federation of Robotics report. Is there a risk that we fall behind our peers?

IORMA considers that Data Protection Impact Assessments are a classic example of putting draconian measures in place that are useless in a world where innovation cycles are accelerating. The suggestion that ‘companies which choose to deploy AI Systems in the near future will likely have to produce them’ is unrealistic! People will not be ‘doing AI’, it will be ever present.  New algorithms and solutions will be created in non-seconds. What is needed are frameworks and goal setting for the AI, not regulation. Seems like GDPR approaches to digital protection are too much front of mind for the regulators these days….

IORMA agrees that there is more potential to be gained by bringing scientific and business communities together to retain our leadership in innovation and convert it into industrial growth, the latter being a very important aspect of our future post–Brexit international growth strategy.

Therefore the proposal contained in the Hall-Pesenti Review and endorsed by the House of Lords’ Report to establish a UK AI Council is critical in creating the mechanism to deliver essential co-operation between all key players.

The Industrial Strategy gave the UK AI Council the following remit.

  • Champion research and innovation
  • Stimulate demand and accelerate uptake across all sectors of the economy
  • Increase awareness of the advantages of advanced data analytic technologies
  • Promote greater diversity in the AI workforce

But IORMA shares the Report’s concern that its constitution is unclear, its membership rather vague except that SMEs, users and developers should be represented. IORMA wishes to make a bid to be heavily engaged in the UK’s AI Council’s formation and future development. We would like to see its secretariat drawn from companies at the leading edge of harnessing AI, together with clients and customers.

An early assessment of the benefits of AI on the development of strategic sectors of UK strength is recommended. In the short term, such a move will enhance our global competitiveness. In the mid to long term it will expedite the commercial success of UK research and consequently the performance of our strategic companies in the UK and international markets.

IORMA suggests that as a priority the UK AI Council, and the newly created Government Office  for AI  should set about the development and prioritization of our post-Brexit industrial strategy, working closely with the AI community and strategic companies with a view to bringing forward innovation. This will not only confirm the immediate benefits of AI but also enhance the future growth and efficiency prospects of the UK.

The report highlights the shortage of skilled staff available to AI development and some of the initiatives aimed at redressing the shortage. Companies are generally willing to part fund graduates but Government support and funding from the EPSRC will need to be increased to kick start an increase in students.

IORMA is working with the University of East London, which draws students from an area of London which has the largest pool of young people in London, many of whom are from aspirational immigrant families. We are developing programmes which could form the foundation for students who then could go on to work on AI and other leading edge technologies.

With recent events, cybersecurity is top of mind at present. We note that the Report recommends that the Cabinet Office’s final Cyber Security & Technology Strategy consider the risks and opportunities of using AI in cybersecurity applications, and conducts further research as how to protect datasets from any attempts at data sabotage.

We hope that the Government’s announcement to set up the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation will allow policies to be developed to support the ethical and responsible use of AI. It can play a leading role in bringing public and private sector data sets together to allow efficiencies across industry and, ultimately, for the better good of citizens. It should look at the example of Open Banking because there is much to be learnt from what is happening there.

We would suggest additionally that in areas where AI is pushing the boundaries of innovation, regulatory processes within specific industrial sectors are updated as and when necessary in order to harness the incremental value which is created within established safety and quality norms.

There is something missing overall. AI should be embraced right into the centre of government, across all departments. allowing for algorithmic policy creation – think continuous legislation.

IORMA’s view is that the benefits of AI outweigh the risks of its development. We fully encourage its early adoption in a responsible manner which engages society and spearheads wealth creation and consequent improvement in peoples’ lives.

We believe that within an open and pragmatic development framework consumers will largely benefit from AI. However we see an important role in identifying and quantifying societal risk with a view to working with government in managing the broader challenges of the digital age.

AI knows no borders and the innovation at play is global. Bringing UK and international stakeholders together from government, science and industry has an important role to play in facilitating responsible development. In this context we have identified an important convening role.

IORMA – The Global Consumer Commerce Centre 

April 2018


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