5 minute read 28 Sep 2022
How Irish organisations can adopt an AI model that benefits everyone

How Irish organisations can adopt an AI model that benefits everyone

By Ciarán Hickey

EY Ireland Data & Analytics Director

Passionate about solving complex problems with Data and AI. Enjoy being creative with design and storytelling that focuses on the user at heart. Interested in sports and spending time with my family.

5 minute read 28 Sep 2022

There needs to be a balance between enhancing business’ societal license to operate and the financial Return on Investment from AI.

In brief
  • Organisations’ work plan for AI programmes must include ethical framework for understanding and managing AI.
  • Users’ trust in AI is imperative for its seamless adoption across organisations and society at large.
  • As organisations accelerate AI adoption, the purpose should be to devise ways that support and create productive and fulfilling lives for people.

As the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) gathers momentum, it is time to think about how to get AI right so that it creates social value as it breaks through more organisational frontiers. Irish organisations, like their peers across the world, are prioritising their ethical goals to put in place appropriate safeguards and governance for AI and its applications. As the downside risks could be existential, Irish businesses need to chart a path that ensures that no one is left behind and that there is sustained value in adoption of AI technologies.

Responsible use of AI can be a competitive differentiator. It is about transparency, trust, and social accountability.

People first approach

Businesses need to have in place a common set of ethical principles to guide usage of AI across the organisation. And these principles should be there not just for machines, but for people as well. Organisations need to operate AI systems with fairness and transparency and take care of safety, privacy and society at large. The outcomes for customers, employees and other people affected by the adoption of AI must be aligned to sustainable values.

When Irish organisations launch their AI programmes, their work plan should focus on some key questions and their answers:

Human rights and ethical principles are a key focus of Ireland’s National AI Strategy that forms an integral part of Ireland’s overall digital strategy. The country is making a commitment to ensuring that AI-based systems and solutions developed and used are trustworthy, fair and inclusive¹.

Build a culture of trust

It is imperative to strike the right balance between the financial Return on Investment from AI and enhancing business’ societal license to operate. The purpose should be to devise ways that support and create productive and fulfilling lives for people as organisations accelerate the adoption of AI. The more people start to trust the technology, the more they are likely to embrace it and the easier it would be to exploit AI’s transformative potential in tackling societal, economic and environmental challenges.

Organisations need practical guidance on how to translate high-level ethics principles into verifiable criteria that help shape the design, development, deployment and use of ethical AI. The Council of Europe has identified over 506 documents since 2010 that focus on AI initiatives across Europe with privacy, human rights, transparency, trust, responsibility being the most frequent concepts discussed².

Methods such as design thinking have become very popular in the early phases of an AI lifecycle, ensuring that the project is aligned to a human centric approach. Ethics canvas boards are extremely useful when working on problems that could be classified by low to high-risk AI systems, providing a structured approach and checklist to teams. Outside of tools and methods, some simple measures that can help accelerate good practice and behaviour is having multicultural teams and a gender balance as they bring different values, demeaners, experience, and ideas during the lifecycle of an AI project.

Very soon it will be mandatory for organisations to build ethical guidelines into their AI framework as the European Commission proposes its first-ever legal framework on AI.

Adoption of AI is motivated by trust and for creating a sustained value it is imperative that users have that trust in the AI technology itself or they won’t adopt it.

There are two actions that Irish businesses need to take so that everyone is not just able to contribute to the development of AI but also benefit from it. In order to get started, they must:

Such an effort has the potential to create a level of awareness that would resonate across all industries using AI while also enhance creativity and people skills. A public-private partnership focused on using the benefits of the technology would not only be a positive way to meet a societal imperative, but also a potential economic energiser offering a huge global return on investment.

Emerging technologies such as AI can be used not just to solve an immediate problem, but also to generate longer term societal value. Which, in turn, means focusing not just on those who will benefit from AI, but also those for whom it will have the opposite effect.

Summary

AI’s role as a productivity driver can be enhanced when Irish organisations test its applications in areas of public service. Adoption of ethical AI models could drive responsible innovation across industries in Ireland, in keeping with the proposed national strategy. Irish organisations need to find their way through ethical dilemmas and work on areas where AI can help improve unregulated social processes.

About this article

By Ciarán Hickey

EY Ireland Data & Analytics Director

Passionate about solving complex problems with Data and AI. Enjoy being creative with design and storytelling that focuses on the user at heart. Interested in sports and spending time with my family.