ICAS responds to the Scottish Government’s AI strategy consultation
ICAS responds to the Scottish Government’s Consultation Paper “The AI Of The Possible: Developing Scotland’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy.”
Earlier this year ICAS responded to the Scottish Government’s Consultation Paper “The AI Of The Possible: Developing Scotland’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy.” The information gleaned from the consultation will be used to refine the vision for and proposed approach to fostering the adoption of AI in Scotland, and inform future phases of work in the strategy development process.
In its response ICAS highlighted that, as is recognised in the proposed strategy, it is essential to ensure that the governance and oversight mechanisms over the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are appropriate. For AI to be trustworthy, the organisations involved in its development need to ensure that they have an appropriate culture where ethical leadership is embedded, and ethical values are practised. All organisations and individuals involved in the development of AI need to adhere to a set of core ethical values. A number of bodies and organisations have set out their respective principles in relation to the use of AI. In particular, ICAS highlighted those of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission (EC). These include principles such as accountability, fairness, transparency and explainability. Fairness would encapsulate important societal matters such as ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion. Ultimately, adherence to an appropriate ethical framework will be a key determinant as to whether AI results in positive outcomes for society.
ICAS is in agreement that the strategy should be people-centred and aligned with the National Performance Framework. Whilst the advent of AI offers many opportunities to society, there are also major risks attached to its adoption. A people-centred approach should help to mitigate such risks. There will undoubtedly be citizens who fear the potential impact of AI, including the potential impact on their employment, rights, privacy and safety when facing algorithmic decision-making. It is therefore key to the proposed strategy that focus is placed on creating and maintaining trust in AI as this will be essential to its successful take-up in business and wider society. ICAS therefore welcomes the importance placed on ethics and regulation in the proposed AI ecosystem.
ICAS noted in the response that there are numerous societal benefits that could be derived from AI. These include but are not limited to:
- improved health care, including improved diagnosis;
- improved education;
- more efficient use of energy;
- more accurate weather forecasting that could benefit many sectors, including agriculture;
- enhanced public transport services;
- improved logistical services;
- more efficient and effective public services;
- improved waste management;
- safer and cleaner transport systems;
- improved forecasting and financial and other types of modelling;
- improved detection of fraud; and
- more informed risk assessments and planning across various areas of society.
Appropriate governance required
From the perspective of the accountancy profession, AI will help to make professional accountants more effective and efficient. The ability to more quickly analyse large amounts of data and present it in a readily understandable manner is already having a positive impact. We would envisage that the use of AI will only continue to evolve and lead to greater efficiencies and effectiveness in the years to come. Of course, at the moment most AI is low level in nature. Over time that will evolve towards the use of autonomous AI. It is essential therefore that we ensure from the outset that there is appropriate governance, accountability, explainability and transparency over the development and implementation of AI.
To help to ensure that the benefits are shared there is likely to be a need at some stage for the retraining and re-skilling of people in the use of AI, as is recognised in the strategy. Furthermore, this is likely to require a reassessment of the basic set of skills and competencies that will be required of school leavers and university graduates as they seek employment in a world in which the use of AI becomes increasingly prevalent.