techUK has published their report on AI Adoption in the UK, which aims to celebrate the UK as a global leader in AI development and highlight ways to accelerate the current adoption of this technology for it to have widespread impact.
The report collates industry case studies focused on current implementations of AI technology across several industries, identifies barriers to its wider adoption within the UK and provides recommendations for overcoming these challenges.
The main barriers they have identified are:
- Inconsistent data quality & accessibility
- Lack of trust in AI
- A limiting organisational culture & understanding of AI
- Insufficient compute infrastructure
- Gap in AI skills
The report suggests increases in transparency, skill development, and promoting diversity to combat the issues. It also calls for a concert effort between industry and government to address these barriers as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Hazy’s contribution: Accelerating transformation with synthetic data
Along with other industry experts from techUK’s AI Adoption group, Hazy was invited to contribute to the report by submitting accounts of how we are currently using AI to drive business value for our customers enabled by synthetic data.
The section focuses on our work with Nationwide Building Society (NBS) wherein our AI solution enabled them to accelerate their innovation. NBS wanted to provision data in order to validate third party vendors, but privacy regulations meant that this was difficult to approve and slow to achieve. As a result, the building society looked to synthetic data as a means to quickly and safely procure and share high fidelity data. They chose Hazy for its enterprise credentials and expertise in deploying the technology in complex environments.
Hazy’s software uses artificial intelligence to create new ‘synthetic’ data which retains the statistical properties of the real sets, unlocking data for enhanced propositions while protecting customer privacy. Synthetic data can therefore be used by internal teams and third parties freely and safely.
Using synthetic data, Nationwide has reduced the time needed to provision data for validating vendors from six months to three days. As a result of faster vendor analysis, Nationwide is able to execute on its transformation programme much faster whilst reducing risk of a data breach from using customer data outside of production environments. In essence, synthetic data has de-risked innovation at Nationwide; mitigating against data breaches, whilst also advancing the speed and volume of projects that can be completed each year.
AI Adoption launch event
As part of the report launch event, techUK hosted an afternoon of presentations and panel discussions from various contributors to the report, from industry experts, software providers, consultancies and policymakers.
In their introductory talk, Sue Daley and Prof. Dame Wendy Hall echoed the report’s opening thesis that the UK is leading in AI development, but severely lacking in adoption. Part of the problem, they noted, is that the UK is currently having to retrofit AI applications to the current systems in place, whereas other, less developed countries are able to develop their emerging systems whilst embedding AI along the way.
They agreed that action needs to be taken now if the country is going to combat these issues effectively. A focus on education and skills development in AI, as well as work to create ‘a level playing field’ regarding new technologies. Prof. Dame Wendy Hall has previously said of AI “If it isn’t diverse, it isn’t ethical”, and she expounded upon that, asserting that it is essential for everyone to be able to access tech. This was particularly highlighted for her during the COVID-19 lockdowns, where lower-income families were struggling to provide their children with access to online education.
"If it isn’t diverse, it isn’t ethical"Prof. Dame Wendy Hall
AI across industry and Government
These thoughts were similarly reflected in the panel discussion: ‘How can industry and Government collaborate effectively to promote AI adoption?’.
Much attention was paid to the need for greater education around AI and its capabilities, since many industries could benefit from AI but are unaware of its potential, or don’t have the ability to communicate their needs to developers. There needs to be a shared language and understanding of the technology - companies need to be able to articulate the business case in order to drive AI adoption on a wider scale.
Likewise, transparency and responsibility were held up as key factors in encouraging adoption of AI. Panellists discussed how the technology would struggle without public confidence, but increases in explainability and transparency around how personal data is being used will go a long way to mitigating current scepticism. They also called for more opportunity-focused conversations moving forwards, expressing concerns that there is too much emphasis on the risks without exploring the rewards.
Recently announced government initiatives include the Manchester Prize for groundbreaking AI research, a £900m investment in the development of an AI supercomputer, and a regulatory sandbox for developers to stress-test their products. Also published is a quantum strategy with a research and innovation programme totalling £2.5 billion. It is hoped that these measures will be able to encourage more sectors like agriculture and transportation to adopt AI more widely.
However the consensus of the panel was that the Government can and should be doing more to accelerate this movement. Looking ahead to the as-yet-unpublished government whitepaper on AI, panellists shared their hopes for its contents:
- Clear guidance for businesses, especially SMEs which lack the same resources as larger enterprises
- Direct emphasis on the responsible and ethical usage of AI
- Case studies of existing success stories
- Practical advice on how companies can put the proposals into action
Whilst the government has said it aims to strike the correct balance between innovation and risk management with the upcoming white paper, audiences of the talk were encouraged to engage with the whitepaper and provide feedback when it is published.
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