At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Theresa May focused her speech on the advancement of technology and the benefits it will bring to the future UK economy. May said that the UK needs to harness the huge potential of technology in an ethical way to safe-guard future prosperity.
Identifying Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a key growth area, May reaffirmed that the UK will commit to the establishment of a world first national advisory body for AI. The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) has been allocated £9 million by the government. The CDEI will advise on the measures needed to enable safe and principled uses of data-driven technologies, May added that this would support the government’s goal of developing ethical AI.
Furthermore, the UK will be joining the WEF council on AI, which examines how best to maximise the benefits while reducing the risks associated with AI. The government has estimated that AI could add an additional 630 billion to the UK economy by 2035, increasing the annual growth rate of GVA from 2.5 to 3.9%.
Encouraging digital skills imperative
To further support the development of the tech sector May announced the establishment of England’s first Institute of Coding (IoC), which will receive a £20m investment from the government. This investment will be matched by a further £20m from industry, including in-kind contributions such as training and equipment.
The IoC is a key part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to tackle the UK’s digital skills gap. May said that to allay public fears over job losses due to AI, the government needs to ensure they have the digital skills they will need in the future, May added that greater collaboration was needed between industry and government to achieve this.
More needs to be done to regulate social media platforms
On the issue of social media misuse, the PM urged tech companies to do more to regulate the content uploaded to their platforms. May called on investors to put pressure on these companies to do more.
“Earlier this month, a group of shareholders demanded that Facebook and Twitter disclose more information about sexual harassment, fake news, hate speech and other forms of abuse that take place on the companies’ platforms. Investors can make a big difference here by ensuring trust and safety issues are being properly considered – and I urge them to do so.”
She stressed that social networks must stop providing a platform for terror, extremism and child abuse. May added that content of this nature should be removed automatically, “These companies simply cannot stand by while their platforms are used to facilitate child abuse, modern slavery or the spreading of terrorist and extremist content.”
May added that no one wants to be known as “the first-choice app for paedophiles.” Acknowledging that social media could be a force for good she said, “These companies have some of the best brains in the world. They must focus their brightest and best on meeting these fundamental social responsibilities.”
Summary of key takeaway points
- UK to become a world leader in ethical AI
- Appeal to social networks to crackdown harder on terror, child abuse and extremist material
- The announcement of the IoC and the CDEI
- The UK to join the WEF council on AI
- Closing the digital skills gap is vital