Businesses to trial Australian government’s AI principles

By on 11/11/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Telstra chief data officer, Noel Jarrett, says testing the government’s principles will help guide the telecommunications company as it “considers how to best use AI”. (Image courtesy: Bidgee/Wikimedia Commons).

Five companies in Australia, including some of the country’s biggest, are to trial eight artificial intelligence (AI) principles developed as part of the government’s AI Ethics Framework.

Microsoft, National Australia Bank (NAB), Commonwealth Bank, telecommunications specialist Telstra, and software company Flamingo AI have signed up to test the principles to “ensure they deliver practical benefits and translate into real-world solutions”, according to the government.

The government hopes the principles – which are voluntary and have been designed to complement existing AI obligations and regulations – will be used by businesses and organisations when designing, developing, integrating or using AI. They come under eight categories: human, social and environmental wellbeing; human-centred values; fairness; privacy protection and security; reliability and safety; transparency and explainability; contestability; and accountability.

The principles are designed to ensure that AI systems respect human rights, diversity and the autonomy of individuals; benefit individuals, society and the environment; and are inclusive and accessible, avoiding discrimination against individuals, communities or groups.

If the principles prove effective, complying AI systems will operate reliably in accordance with their intended purpose, while respecting and upholding privacy rights and data protection. Citizens will be informed when their lives or services are being significantly impacted by an AI system, and processes will be in place to allow people to challenge the system’s use or decisions.  

The principles also outline that there should be human oversight of AI systems, and that those  responsible for the different phases of an AI system’s lifecycle should be identifiable and accountable for the outcomes of that system.

Helping the economy to thrive

Karen Andrews, Australia’s minister for industry, science and technology, said that the principles will “encourage organisations to strive for the best outcomes for Australia and to practice the highest standards of ethical business.” Good practice in private sector deployment of AI is, she added, “essential, as we build Australians’ trust that AI systems are safe, secure, reliable and will have a positive effect on their lives.”

Noel Jarrett, Telstra’s chief data officer, said the company is looking forward to learning from the other companies involved in the trial. “There’s no doubt that AI can improve the experiences of our customers and our employees by making things simpler and easier,” he said. “We want to make sure that 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.” 

The government’s AI Ethics Framework is the outcome of extensive consultations across the country and a discussion paper released earlier this year.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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