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Institute of Directors: UK could be left behind on AI

The Institute of Directors has called on the UK government to revamp its ‘wait and see’ approach to AI regulation and establish a principles-based regime on a statutory basis as a matter of urgency, or face being ‘left behind’.

The IoD is worried that the EU’s rules concerning the use of AI will be widely adopted, a development that would see the UK being sidelined as companies explore ways of using the new technology.

A recent survey of IoD members saw 51% of business leaders indicate that AI represented a business opportunity for their organisations, while only 23% saw it as a risk. Yet uncertainty about the UK’s approach to AI regulation was hampering the uptake of these new technologies, the study suggested.

This was because very few boards (8%) had AI governance structures in place to examine how AI was being used in their business or supply chains.

More than half of business leaders (60%) either lacked AI knowledge on their boards, did not see it as a board-level issue or had so far failed to consider the risks and opportunities of AI, found the research.

The government has defined principles to be applied by sector regulators to guide the responsible use of AI in its white paper, A Pro-innovation Approach to AI Regulation. The IoD is broadly supportive of this regulatory approach and is calling for the introduction of an AI Bill in the next King’s Speech (7 November).

Commenting on these proposals, the IoD’s director of policy, Dr Roger Barker, said the IoD preferred the light approach that ministers have so far taken over the “prescriptive rules … being devised by the European Union and some other major jurisdictions.

“However, there is no time to waste. The EU’s proposed legislation is well advanced and may quickly establish itself as the de facto global standard for AI regulation – in the same way that the EU’s GDPR has become the main reference framework for data protection.

“The UK is at risk of being left behind. In order to retain its position of leadership, the UK needs to act fast in implementing its own vision for AI regulation rather than waiting for others to set the rules of the game. We therefore urge the Government to place its AI regulatory principles on a statutory basis through legislation in the King’s Speech.”

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Microsoft announced it will equip one million people with key AI skills to help them explore a career in technology through its newly expanded skills programme GetOn.

New research commissioned by Microsoft revealed that 54% of leaders were concerned their workforce lacked the skills to make the most of the AI opportunity.

The expanded GetOn programme will focus on fluency, technical skills, and business transformation and will create the first professional certificate on generative AI in the online learning market.


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