An Aussie voice in AI standards


Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

The federal government needs to do more to ensure Australia’s voice is heard in the global setting of standards for artificial intelligence, a new report has found.

Standards Australia’s Artificial Intelligence Standards Roadmap: Making Australia’s Voice Heard outlines how Australia can play a role in developing global AI standards and frameworks to ensure the opportunity is best capitalised locally.

It includes recommendations for the federal government that include broadening the membership of major AI working groups to better reflect more industries, a better focus on privacy and security, and better cooperation with world-leading countries.

The new roadmap joins a long list of other similar frameworks and reports on artificial intelligence in Australia.

Canberra Parliament House
Big decisions on setting Australia’s course on AI

Last year CSIRO’s Data61 released an industry roadmap focusing more on building the local AI sector, with three areas of focus identified. The government has also unveiled an ethics framework for local companies undertaking AI-focused projects.

The goal of the Standards Australia roadmap is to “give the Australian market a better chance of capitalising on the growing global AI sector”, Standards Australia chief executive Adrian O’Connell said.

“The clear and actionable recommendations in the report will support Australia to reach its full potential in the adoption and use of this technology,” Mr O’Connell said.

“AI is an exciting technology with a growing future in the Australian and global market. Through standards we believe we can help build confidence and safeguard against the irresponsible use of this technology and its data.

“The opportunity for Australia’s increased participation in the international conversation around AI is clearly outlined in the report.”

The report outlines the important role that standards play in ensuring the opportunities of AI are achieved without the associated risks.

“The challenge for Australia is to scale up our commitment to AI, so we unlock the opportunity it brings, not just in our homes and via our smartphones, but in our schools, universities, hospitals and workplaces,” it said.

“Unlocking this value has the potential to drive new jobs growth, as demand for new services emerges. But in a world of interconnected markets, this relies on globally-aligned norms and rules, where standards play a vital role.

“Standards can provide the means to ensure Australians are ‘makers’ and not just ‘takers’, creating new markets for AI products and, critically, services. We need to participate early, and strongly, to do this, and we already have the infrastructure, through Standards Australia, to enable this.”

To ensure Australia can influence the setting of AI standards globally, the government should nominate experts and broaden the membership of the AI Standards Mirror Committee, particularly to better include sectors like agriculture and resources.

“It is vital we fill these gaps and ensure more comprehensive representation,” the report said.

There also needs to be a significant focus on “responsible AI”, the report found, including taking into account diversity and inclusion, fairness and social trust. This should be fed into all decision making around AI standards.

The recommendations provide a “framework for Australians to intervene and shape the development of standards for AI internationally”.

“As a developer of AI, but even more significantly as a purchaser of AI ‘off-the-shelf’, it is important that Australia is involved in shaping the international standards that are used to develop these AI products and services,” the report found.

“The litmus test for this roadmap, and Australia’s chance to play a leadership role in the governance of AI, will be the extent to which Australian industry, community groups, academia and government coalesce to implement these recommendations and to catalyse these opportunities.

“We will take immediate action to ensure Australians are at the table globally when it comes to setting the AI agenda. The opportunity and challenge for Australian stakeholders is to effectively use the standards process to promote, develop and realise the opportunities of responsible AI, delivering business growth, improving services and protecting consumers.”

The final roadmap follows the release of a discussion paper in June last year, which outlined how Standards Australia planned to work with industry, government, civil society and academia to apply standards and materials to support AI in Australia.

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