“Emerging technologies offer a unique opportunity to improve the governments of the future and citizens’ experience of government,” states a new report, on government AI readiness across 194 countries. The report was produced by Oxford Insights and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
The UK came in at second time place, narrowly behind Singapore, but one place ahead of Germany, with the US and Finland in fourth and fifth spot. India was in 17th spot, but China lagged behind in 20th spot. The report suggested that China’s relatively low position in the index in part a result of limited data availability resulting in lower scores for certain clusters such as infrastructure and data.
While the report highlighted the importance of AI readiness, it also pointed towards dangers.
Firstly, it warned that any gap in AI readiness between developed and emerging markets could exacerbate inequality.
Secondly, the report warned of ethical risks, stating: “Any action by governments, however, should be undertaken with great caution. If it is implemented without due care for ethics and safety, AI in public services could be at best ineffective, and at worst, very dangerous.”
Each country was given an AI readiness score based on “11 input metrics, grouped under four high-level clusters: governance; infrastructure and data; skills and education; and government and public services.”
Data was derived partly from desk research into for example AI strategies, as well as various databases including AI startups on Crunchbase, to indices such as the UN eGovernment Development Index.
Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, said: “AI is already having a positive impact across society – from detecting fraud and diagnosing medical conditions to helping us discover new music, and we’re working hard to make the most of its vast opportunities while managing and mitigating the potential risks.
“With our newly appointed AI Council, we will boost the growth and use of AI in the UK, by using the knowledge of experts from a range of sectors and encourage dialogue between industry, academia and the public sector, to realise the full potential of data-driven technologies to the economy.”
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Tough at the top
“There is global competition in the AI space, and as our research highlights, other countries such as France, Germany and China have also announced significant investments and introduced AI strategies, said Richard Stirling, CEO at Oxford Insights.
He added: “If the UK is to stay ahead in the field we must continue to support AI research, technologies and companies with a clear national strategy and investment programme to support continuous innovation”.
The north south divide
But the AI readiness index also highlighted a big divide between countries. As Fernando Perini, Senior Program Officer at Canada’s International Development Research Centre said: “The index shows thatgovernments in the global north are still better positioned to reap the benefits of AI than their southern counterparts. The differences in AI readiness between governments may increase the risk that certain countries could become testing grounds. “
He concluded “To close the potential to widen global inequalities, there is a need for more equal implementation.”
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Why the report?
The AI readiness index report stated: “The purpose of assessing and scoring governments’ AI readiness is not to create or fuel a global race for AI. Rather, it is to help policymakers everywhere see where they are performing well, and in which areas they may wish to target their attention going forward. The age of AI is coming, and our intended contribution, through the Index, is to encourage all governments – whether in the Global North or South – to be as prepared as possible to help their citizens take advantage of the benefits of automation, while protecting them from its associated risks.”
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
|United States of America
|United Arab Emirates