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PWC calls for action on responsible AI practices

The estimated $15.7trn economic potential of artificial intelligence (AI) will only be realised if the integration of responsible AI practices occurs across organisations, and is considered before any developments take place, according to a paper by PwC.  

Combating a piecemeal approach to AI's development and integration – which is exposing organisations to potential risks – requires organisations to embed end-to-end understanding, development and integration of responsible AI practices, according to a new toolkit published by PwC.

PwC has identified five dimensions organisations need to focus on and tailor for their specific strategy, design, development, and deployment of AI: governance, ethics and regulation, interpretability & explainability, robustness & security, and bias and fairness.

The dimensions focus on embedding strategic planning and governance in AI's development, combating growing public concern about fairness, trust and accountability.

Earlier this year, 85% of CEOs said AI would significantly change the way they do business in the next five years, and 84% admitted that AI-based decisions need to be explainable in order to be trusted.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, Anand Rao, Global AI Leader, PwC US, said: "The issue of ethics and responsibility in AI are clearly of concern to the majority of business leaders. The C-suite needs to actively drive and engage in the end-to-end integration of a responsible and ethically led strategy for the development of AI in order to balance the economic potential gains with the once-in-a-generation transformation it can make on business and society. One without the other represents fundamental reputational, operational and financial risks."

As part of PwC's Responsible AI Toolkit, a diagnostic survey enables organisations to assess their understanding and application of responsible and ethical AI practices. In May and June 2019, around 250 respondents involved in the development and deployment of AI completed the assessment.

The results demonstrate immaturity and inconsistency in the understanding and application of responsible and ethical AI practices:

  • Only 25% of respondents said they would prioritise a consideration of the ethical implications of an AI solution before implementing it.
  • One in five (20%) have clearly defined processes for identifying risks associated with AI. Over 60% rely on developers, informal processes, or have no documented procedures.
  • Ethical AI frameworks or considerations existed, but enforcement was not consistent.
  • 56% said they would find it difficult to articulate the cause if their organisation's AI did something wrong.
  • Over half of respondents have not formalised their approach to assessing AI for bias, citing a lack of knowledge, tools, and ad hoc evaluations.
  • 39% of respondents with AI applied at scale were only "somewhat" sure they know how to stop their AI if it goes wrong.

Rao said: "AI brings opportunity but also inherent challenges around trust and accountability. To realise AI's productivity prize, success requires integrated organisational and workforce strategies and planning. There is a clear need for those in the C-suite to review the current and future AI practices within their organisation, asking questions to not just tackle potential risks, but also to identify whether adequate strategy, controls and processes are in place.

"AI decisions are not unlike those made by humans. In each case, you need to be able to explain your choices, and understand the associated costs and impacts. That's not just about technology solutions for bias detection, correction, explanation and building safe and secure systems. It necessitates a new level of holistic leadership that considers the ethical and responsible dimensions of technology's impact on business, starting on day one."

Wilson Chow, Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Leader, PwC China, added: "The foundation for responsible AI is end-to-end enterprise governance. The ability of organisations to answer questions on accountability, alignment and controls will be a defining factor to achieve China's ambitious AI growth strategy."

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