Artificial Intelligence | Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG
April 19, 2018

AI: telling the truths of a force for good

By Stephen Kelly, CEO, Sage

“It’s amazing to think you can talk to a robot or a computer and that it could respond with an actual answer. It’s important for young people my age to learn about AI because it’s gonna be the future, so it’s important we know about it.”

What a refreshing perspective from a 15-year old girl we spoke to recently at a Sage training event around AI for young people. Her views are far more pragmatic than the commentary we’re hearing from other well-known leaders across business and government, who tell fictional tales threatening job losses or predicting an apocalyptic future that should be confined to Hollywood. References like this are unhelpful at best, and at worst threaten to limit the potential we can harness from this emerging technology.

At Sage, we’re all about doing business the right way, evidenced by our work through Sage Foundation. And as the UK’s largest technology company we take our responsibility to ensure the development of emerging technologies like AI is undertaken ethically and benefits the progress of mankind very seriously.  So I want to touch on a few areas highlighting the work we’re doing in this area.

Ethics of code

It is exciting to see increased academic research activity in ethical AI and accountability over the last 18 months, but in truth we aren’t seeing enough schools, business leaders, governments or even the companies that are applying AI develop it responsibly. Last year Sage published The Ethics of Code to address this little acknowledged issue within our industry and called upon other leaders to adopt the principles we use within our AI team.

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The Ethics of Code is a call to action for other business leaders, but also shows Sage taking responsibility. We believe that leading by example will bring the change we wish to see across the industry. Developed by a team at Sage, we ensure the Ethics of Code are strictly adhered to across all our AI development.

Sage against gender based violence

Working in partnership with the South African social justice institute, Soul City, Sage Foundation is building a smart assistant to support women who are the victims of domestic violence in the region. Research shows that victims of gender-based violence take a long time to report abuse to authorities – if they do so at all. This is usually because of the social stigma and the fact that often this crime is seen as ‘acceptable’ – even by members of local law enforcement authorities.

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The goal of the assistant is not to replace human connection, but rather to provide help when talking to a human is not possible, or comfortable. Available 24/7, and accessible via social media platforms, this tool will provide information on the law and the victim’s rights in addition to work through the emotional support they may need.

Sage FutureMakers Lab

Sage has developed the FutureMakers Lab to help educate young people up to the age of 18 in AI skills, but equally to demonstrate that there are many other skills required for a career in AI like problem solving and conversation design. Currently in a pilot phase, with sessions taking place in towns across the UK & Ireland between now and September, we have plans to take the initiative all over the world to secure the future success of young people and dispel the myth that robots are going to take all our jobs. Critically, we are encouraging young people from all backgrounds to take part and would encourage other businesses developing AI to commit to supporting training programs that will widen the talent pool beyond those who’ve graduated from red brick universities. This is the only way we will truly deliver AI that is representative of our community as a whole.

For those of us attending the UN’s AI for Good Global Summit, I would issue a stark call to action that we must all take responsibility for the part we play in positively securing the future of AI.

In addition to working together to ensure there’s a healthy talent pipeline to fill the roles AI will create, we must be the beacons of hope, taking the information on how AI is changing lives for the better, and creating opportunities for the future back to our communities.

Because in truth – it’s not the scaremongering headlines we see in the media that present the biggest threat, it’s the fact that we may not be prepared to embrace the benefits it can bring.

Stephen Kelly, CEO, Sage
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AI: telling the truths of a force for good

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