Santow to lead UTS responsible tech unit


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow will lead a University of Technology Sydney (UTS) ‘responsible technology’ initiative focused on AI when he steps down from his role at the commission later this month, with the government yet to announce his replacement.

InnovationAus understands the government will not appoint a new standalone human rights commissioner and the title will go to current commission president Professor Rosalind Croucher, who will perform both roles.

On Friday UTS announced that Mr Santow, who has led the rights organisation since 2106, would take up a position in September as Industry Professor – Responsible Technology.

In the new role he will spearhead a UTS initiative to develop Australia’s strategic capability in artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technology, including “bespoke leadership development” for senior government and private sector leaders.

The initiative will also provide training to employees in AI exposed sectors like financial services and general workplace training on the impact of the controversial technology.

Throughout his tenure as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Santow has urged caution on the use of AI, and recently called for a moratorium on it and other algorithmic technologies use in high risk areas until more effective regulation is developed in Australia.

Ed Santow
Australian Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow will take up a new role at UTS as Industry Professor – Responsible Technology.

Mr Santow recently told InnovationAus Australia must learn the lessons of failed AI and automation technology projects like robodebt.

“There are ways to lean into new technologies that will help drive better decisions, and more data-driven decisions. We need to make sure that basic requirements like anti-discrimination law are adhered to and we don’t have opaque forms of decision-making,” he said in May.

“If something goes wrong you need to be able to get to the bottom of what went wrong and have the decision reviewed.”

UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said the university is developing a strong reputation in the field of ethics and AI.

“Ed represents the kind of multifaceted approach UTS can bring to AI education. His work aligns with UTS’s strategic vision to be a leading public university of technology, recognised for our global impact, and our ambitious social justice goals,” Mr Brungs said.

Mr Santow was appointed to as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner in 2016, replacing Tim Wilson, who left the role to renter politics as a Liberal MP.

The outgoing Commissioner led a three-national initiative exploring the use of emerging technologies, culminating in the Human Rights and Technology Final Report, which includes 38 recommendations to government on how to ensure new technologies are used by governments and the private sector in a fair, inclusive and accountable way.

Mr Santow will begin his new role at UTS in September and be situated in the university’s Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion.

“I am excited to work with UTS’s world-class experts on a defining challenge of our time: to ensure that the AI we increasingly rely on gives us the future we want and need, not one we fear,” Mr Santow said.

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