Why Australia needs an AI strategy

Australia is falling behind in AI preparation. Photo: LPW

The implications of recent advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have spurred heated debate. As science fiction starts to become reality, AI products are slowly infiltrating homes and workplaces, raising concerns about the potential detrimental effects on the job market and the future of humanity.

In the following piece, Ralf Llanasas explores AI-driven policies around the world and comments on the desperate need for Australia to begin implementing similar strategies.

Governments around the world are beginning to prioritise AI as a major policy tool, carving the advancing technologies into budgets and financial investments.

Their journeys towards AI-optimised communities are for good reason; the technology is capable of increasing the overall quality of all aspects of life. From the workplace to entertainment, healthcare, and beyond, AI applications continue to make a strong impression. 

While several countries have already implemented AI driven strategies, the same can’t be said for Australia. The country currently lacks any plans towards the application of the technology in its communities, and if any plans can be found, they are still in the adaptive stages.

The Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) published ‘Artificial Intelligence: Australia’s Ethics Framework‘, a discussion highlighting the following eight core principles to govern the dissemination of AI in the country:

  • It must generate net benefits;
  • It must not cause harm;
  • It must follow regulatory and legal compliance;
  • It must include privacy protection;
  • It must be fair;
  • It must be transparent and explainable;
  • It must be contestable; and
  • It must be accountable.

While these principles form the framework governing Artificial Intelligence applications, Australians still have to decide how these technologies will be implemented and achieved. 

So far, AI is already being experienced in several sectors in the country — from everyday smartphone uses, businesses, governments and beyond — but a more organised approach to carving out an AI-related niche and identity remains lacking.

The United States (US) boasts an AI strategy eons away from its counterparts. In 2017, the FUTURE of AI Act 2017 was introduced, forming the framework for AI in the US. 

The United States’ AI strategy is built around five key principles that can be summarised into one sentence: Push the nation forward through technological breakthroughs and the development of appropriate technical and personnel skills that protect American values while positioning the nation at a technological advantage

China’s AI strategy is simple — the world power seeks to build a domestic AI industry worth nearly US$150 billion within the next few years, and to become the world’s leading AI power by 2030. 

These goals were outlined in the “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” released by the State Council of China in July 2017.

China leads the world in AI maturity levels. Photo: Pace Today

China’s application of AI within the country is guided by 15 principles, which are divided into the following sections:

  • Research and Development;
  • Use; and
  • Governance.

All principles call for the “construction of a human community with a shared future, and the realisation of beneficial AI for humankind and nature”.

The United Kingdom (UK) launched a Sector Deal for AI in March 2018, which aimed to take ‘immediate, tangible actions’ towards advancing the UK’s artificial intelligence ambitions. Prior to this, the UK had made several attempts at harnessing AI, such as:

  • Robotics and Artificial Intelligence; 
  • All Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence (APPG AI);
  • Select Committee on AI to mention a few.

While none of these are necessarily thriving in the UK, there are five key principles guiding the dissemination of their AI applications. 

These gist of these principles is that Artificial intelligence must be developed for the good of humanity, operating on intelligibility while making sure not to diminish the data rights and privacy of individuals. 

Also, all citizens reserve the right to be educated alongside artificial intelligence, and the government must make sure the autonomous power to destroy humans must not be vested in Artificial Intelligence. 

There can hardly be any argument against the fact that world powers such as China and the United States are leagues ahead in their Artificial Intelligence strategies. Those countries approach the technology with investments, carving out budgets targeting AI as a national priority. 

The general area of Artificial Intelligence as a societal cornerstone might be beyond a small country like Australia. Perhaps what’s best for Australia (and Australians) is to carve out a strategically important niche of their own, rather than follow the identical roadmap of larger countries. 

A unique niche that Australia can capitalise on is AI-related training and retraining. There is a possibility (or likelihood) that a chunk of the current workforce will eventually be replaced by others who are technologically savvy, or even by AI-related technological applications. 

Take taxi drivers and truck drivers, for example, and the idea that the inevitable emergence of self driving cars will replace them at some point. Such workers would need to be retrained in an effort to overcome their structural unemployment.

To prepare for such occurrences, the Australian government could invest $1 billion in training, consisting of grants for universities, where the government would pay for courses delivered using AI to retrain workers, and perhaps such retraining could be AI-focused as well. 

If Australia became the world leader in AI-based training courses, then the country would have created an AI-related niche and commodity of its own. 

This could be exported to other nations, making AI-based training a key long term skill that Australia could own. It would also assist the country in retraining the current workforce, which is going to have to happen anyway. 

Wherever there is extensive implementation of AI into society, not all its effects will be positive. There is a need to examine the effects the technology will potentially have on minority groups in Australia. 

From discrimination to exploitation, it is imperative that the government puts measures in place to protect the interests of these minority groups, while pushing for Australia’s AI-related goals.

Further, given Australia’s current lag in the global AI race, there is likelihood that most AI technologies used here will be developed in foreign countries. 

Should this continue to be the case, how will the government ensure that foreign manufacturers keep up to any standards and expectations born by Australian regulations? 

Despite all these issues being addressed in the CSIRO’s framework, any suggested solutions can only be tested when the country implements an AI strategy.


Artificial Intelligence: Australia’s Ethics Framework | Industry.gov.au

Australia is not prepared for a future of global disruptors | AFR

AI Policy – United States | FOL Institute

China’s New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan | FLIA

AI and automation tech bounty on the horizon for public sector partners | ARN



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Source Article from https://tottnews.com/2019/10/15/why-australia-needs-an-ai-strategy/

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