Labour will use AI to grow the economy by 0.5%, says shadow tech secretary Peter Kyle – ComputerWeekly.com

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The Labour Party aims to grow the economy by 0.5% by enabling businesses and the public sector to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

The shadow secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, Peter Kyle MP, said yesterday that AI could increase the government’s fiscal headroom by £72bn within five years.

“If there is 0.5% productivity growth out there as a result of currently available digital technology, by hook or by crook I will deliver it,” he said.

But Kyle acknowledged that the Labour Party would need to address people’s fears over the risks posed by AI, particularly fears over its impact on jobs.

Kyle said he found it incredible that the deputy prime minister, Oliver Dowden, was touting AI as a way to cut jobs in the civil service at a time when government research showed the public was already pessimistic about the impact of AI.

“It is not surprising that pessimism among the general public is getting worse. And pessimism will lead to less adoption [in the UK] as other countries race ahead with adopting AI across their economies,” he said.

The shadow technology spokesman said AI had the potential to benefit workers, companies, employers and the country as a whole, but that it would not happen without a coherent strategy.

He said a key part of Labour’s AI strategy would be for the government to build trust with the public by being open and transparent about its own use of AI and algorithms.

“The government has a democratic right to explanation and information about how the government makes its decisions,” he said.

Kyle lambasted the government for failing to meet its commitments to explain to the public its use of algorithms for decision-making in Whitehall.

The government’s Algorithmic Transparency Recording Standard Hub has only published one public report this year and did not publish any in 2023, he said.

This was “clearly unacceptable”, he said, when the Cabinet Office and the government’s AI Incubator alone is running 10 AI pilot projects, including using AI to identify fraud and error in pharmacies and to get more asylum seekers out of hotel accommodation more efficiently.

“There is a clear need for government to provide more information about its use of AI in such sensitive areas,” he said. “If it looks like the government is trying to hide how AI is being used, that is bad for trust across the country, and that will become unease and stop the growth that we need to see.”

A Labour government would commit to transparency about how it uses AI and would require companies developing the most advanced forms of AI, known as frontier AI, to produce safety reports.

Kyle said Labour would also create a regulatory innovation office to ensure regulators can keep pace with fast-moving developments in AI and other technology.

The government would set time-based targets for making regulatory decisions, and benchmark the performance of regulators against international competitors. “It will make sure that regulation does not unnecessarily slow down innovation,” he said.

A priority would be to support the use of “everyday AI” in small businesses, as well as supporting “the next 10 Deep Minds through their startup and scaleup in the UK”.

“It means ensuring that the UK public sector is a leader in responsible transparency, transparently applying AI rather than veering from extreme risk to extreme optimism, as the current government is doing,” he said.  

Labour’s industrial strategy would set out clear priorities for the next 10 years – the first time a political party has committed to a decade-long industrial programme – and would “catapult” key areas of the economy.

The shadow secretary of state said he recognised that AI could have a significant impact on the workforces of some companies and industrial sectors.

“I want to be very explicit about how we can make this disruption a positive disruption for our economy and its workforces,” he said. “I am very aware of what happened in the 1980s. There was negative disruption in the workforce and a government that absented itself from any responsibility from shaping what came next.”

A Labour government would work in partnership with trade unions and employers. “We won’t hide from it,” said Kyle.

In the US, one in four small businesses are using AI, but in Britain, half of small businesses are not aware of AI, he told a conference organised by the technology trade group TechUK.

“We have to start by reassuring the public we are being transparent about what we are doing and have a public debate,” he added.

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