USA tops AI readiness index

By on 30/09/2020 | Updated on 30/09/2020
According to the index, the USA is the country best prepared to realise the benefits of artificial intelligence, however it ranks 24th when it comes to responsible AI use. (Photo by John Brighenti via flickr).

The USA has been named as the country best prepared to realise the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in public service delivery, topping the 2020 Government AI Readiness Index. Meanwhile Singapore, which led the 2019 list, has fallen to sixth place.

The index – compiled by UK-based consultants Oxford Insights and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) – examines how well-placed nations are to take advantage of the benefits of AI in their internal operations and the delivery of public services. This year, 172 countries were reviewed.

The ranking measures AI readiness across three criteria: government willingness to adopt AI, and the ability to adapt and innovate to do so; availability of AI expertise and tools from the technology sector; and capabilities in building AI tools, providing them with high-quality data, and building them into public services.

The leading nations – the top five performers are the USA, the UK, Finland, Germany and Sweden – scored highly in all categories. However, the report found that some of the world’s most AI-ready countries, including the USA, UK, Singapore and Russia, perform badly when prioritising and practicing the responsible use of AI.

The ‘Responsible Use Sub-Index’ measures nine indicators across four criteria drawn from the OCED’s Principles on Artificial Intelligence: inclusivity, accountability, transparency and privacy. On this measure, the top five nations when it comes to responsible AI use are Estonia, Norway, Luxembourg, Finland and Sweden. The USA, meanwhile, is in 24th place and the UK in 22nd.

“Taking a lead from countries in the Baltic-Nordic region such as Finland and Estonia, there must be a greater focus on data representativeness and protection, privacy legislation and national ethics frameworks to protect citizen’s rights and prevent unfair and discriminatory outcomes for certain groups in society,” said Oxford Insights CEO Richard Stirling.

“AI is transforming the way in which countries are governed so it will become increasingly important that governments, while capitalising on AI’s potential, also have protocols and regulations in place to ensure implementation is ethical, transparent and inclusive,” he added.

Tackling technological inequality

The index draws attention to variations between higher-income countries and lower- or middle-income ones, with the former consistently achieving higher AI readiness scores. No countries in Africa, Latin America, South Asia or Central Asia are listed in the top 20, for example.

“AI has real potential to transform governance and public services throughout the world, from healthcare and education to security. However, there is also a danger that nations and regions, particularly in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia, will be left behind,” said IDRC president, Jean Lebel.

He added: “This year’s index and report highlights the current strengths, weaknesses and barriers to governments’ AI readiness and responsibilities, which we hope will stimulate further sharing of expertise, opportunities, tools and policies among governments and stakeholders and across borders, as well as encourage new collaborations and investment. We believe that this, in part, will help those currently lagging behind in our index to improve their AI readiness so that existing economic and technology inequality doesn’t become further entrenched and leave billions of citizens with worse quality public services.”

National AI strategies

The report also shows that there is a growing commitment to AI across the world, with a proliferation of new national and international AI strategies published in the last year: 50% more have been published relative to the previous year. “This illustrates an intent across countries as diverse as Egypt, Serbia and Colombia to exploit AI’s potential to enhance and improve governance and society,” the report says.

For example, Singapore launched its AI strategy in November 2019; the European Commission and member states published their plan to foster the development and use of AI in December last year; and Indonesia announced its national AI strategy in August.

There are also a number of new cross-border regional initiatives aimed at encouraging governments to share good practice and take a more proactive approach, such as IDRC’s AI for Development (AI4D) project, which supports regional initiatives across Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. 

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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