Feds too slow on AI: Dominello

James Riley
Editorial Director

At a time when NSW is openly talking about introducing a facial recognition-based public transport ticketing system, the state is going it alone on a new ethical AI delivery framework for government, saying the discussions at the federal level are moving too slow.

NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello says the state will move to more substantial work on AI-based systems, and an accelerated program looking at the governance and ethics models for artificial intelligence was a “logical next progression”.

While artificial intelligence remained an early-stage technology, its development was expected to speed up dramatically in the coming years, Mr Dominello told InnovationAus.com.

Victor Dominello: We are at ‘a moment on truth’ on artificial intelligence

This was especially the case in relation to the arrival of quantum computing as a now-visible ‘event horizon’, he said.

NSW will convene an invitation-only AI Leaders’ Summit on November 29 as the first stage in shaping the way that artificial intelligence systems are used in NSW, and to test the NSW AI Ethics Framework and AI strategy that is already under development in Australia.

The summit program is being developed under NSW Chief data Scientist Ian Oppermann and is expected to bring together public servants with business, academia and ‘community leaders’. Dr Oppermann and his team would take feedback from the summit write the first cut of the state’s AI ethics framework.

“We are really at a point where we need to be moving a little bit faster on issues related to AI,” Mr Dominell told InnovationAus.com.

“Artificial intelligence is really still in a nascent phase – we’re really doing pretty basic AI at the moment. But the reality is that we have an event horizon called quantum in the not too distant future which will dramatically speed up the progression of AI,” he said.

“We just need to get the ethics architecture in place before that happens, and now I think we are at a moment of truth where we need to move fast.”

Ian Opperman had been charged with bringing “the best and brightest minds” together to set up a framework for discussion around the key issues that need to be addressed, and to listen to industry on where they think they are best placed and where they think government should take the lead and what the structure should look like.

A core group chaired by Dr Opperman will then report back through the participants to reflect back what the discussions had covered.

Mr Dominello said the creation of a Services Australia unit at the federal level would create new opportunities to collaborate and accelerate government delivery programs, but made clear NSW would press ahead regardless.

The NSW Government will launch its new Digital Strategy in November setting out its plans for the next four to five years.

The strategy builds on “a number of pillars,” Mr Dominello said, including ‘tell us once’, cybersecurity, AI, and citizen feedback mechanisms. The strategy includes a roadmap for IT, skills, and the state’s Investment and Spend plans.

Mr Dominello has promised the new Digital Strategy – the first since 2017 – includes a new roadmap to make it easier for Australian SME tech suppliers to sell to the state’s giant procurement engine.

“Access is always a challenge,” Mr Dominello said. “We want to make sure the ecosystem is as diverse as possible, because diversity brings with it innovation.”

“If you are only dealing with two or three massive companies, you don’t get that much innovation. So we have got a roadmap to make things easier for SMEs, such as simplifying legal processes, and better understanding the further roadblocks they have for buying into the IT investment strategy in NSW.”

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