The UK Government’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) undertook a series of workshops with more than 100 AI experts, policy makers, business and consumer stakeholders to pull together a ‘barometer’ of ‘the most pressing opportunities, risks and governance challenges associated with AI and data use’ across the criminal justice, health, financial services, media and energy sectors.  

The CDEI barometer is worth browsing as a starting point for planning Australia’s post-COVID digital acceleration.

The CDEI  barometer identifies ‘easier to achieve’ opportunities in each sector (e.g. using AI to scan child exploitation online materials to reduce stress on police investigators).  But it also concludes that ‘the highest-potential benefits are among the hardest to achieve, typically involving the toughest ethical questions.’
Examples include:

Criminal justice:

  • More proportionate and unbiased court decisions: AI could make justice decisions more transparent by providing more data on how people are treated, and with algorithms that can be interrogated and tested in a way that humans can’t be.

Financial sector:

  • Using AI to identify people that are at potential risk of financial distress, enabling earlier intervention.


  • Identifying health inequalities as improvements in software lower costs and allow more people to access advanced healthcare. One UK project providing improved internet access in public spaces enables recording and triage of health concerns among rough sleepers.


  • Using social media data to power ground-breaking research with significant public benefits – for example, learning about how young people talk about mental health across chat groups. 


  • Combining sectoral data sets (eg from smart meters) with non-sectoral data (eg geographic data on infrastructure distribution) to generate new insights about property use and patterns in energy demand. 

The CDEI barometer identified public distrust of AI as ‘the fundamental brake on innovation’, and the CDEI sets itself the mission of cracking this distrust.

While there is no ‘magic’ in the CDEI’s proposed solutions, the point rather is the focused, informed debate on AI which a government body like the CDEI can stimulate.   This is needed now more than ever. As the barometer comments:

The COVID-19 crisis is causing the ‘leapfrogged’ adoption of specific technologies, applications and business models…planning and resources may be needed to retain the benefits of the accelerated technology use, and sustainably integrate it into service delivery. [But] the risks...that are likely to be heightened as a result of COVID-19 include misinformation (particularly around health issues), data concentration and platform monopolies as people and businesses increasingly rely on digital services, and the privacy impacts of increased digital surveillance that can arise with the use of technology to track the spread of the virus. 


Read more: AI Barometer Report

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