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  • 28 March 2019 10:28

Digital skills shortages and R&D tax incentives remain obstacles to Artificial Intelligence (AI) development in Australia, says AIIA

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak member body for the ICT industry, is calling on government, industry peers, educators and researchers to collaborate on maximising the opportunities presented by the emergence of of Artificial Intelligence (AI) products and services in Australia, and to ensure that solutions are available for some of the challenges that are anticipated.

Sydney, Australia – 28 March 2019 -- The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak member body for the ICT industry, is calling on government, industry peers, educators and researchers to collaborate on maximising the opportunities presented by the emergence of of Artificial Intelligence (AI) products and services in Australia, and to ensure that solutions are available for some of the challenges that are anticipated.

Through the implementation of AI technologies, consumers can benefit from personalised products that meet the needs of the individual customer, online product recommendations based on assessments of consumers’ buying patterns and product preferences, and improved customer service from more efficient digital supply chain networks.

The Australian ICT industry currently lacks access to relevant local skills, and is not supported by an effective Research and Development Taxation Incentive (R&DTI) Program that fosters an environment of innovation, commercialisation and export of high-quality Australian AI products and services, says the AIIA.

Ron Gauci, CEO of the AIIA, believes adopting the right government policy settings is key to fostering the healthy development and adoption of AI in Australia in a manner that benefits society and drives our economy.

“The creation of a favourable business environment where Australian industries are empowered to innovate, develop and deploy AI solutions, and contribute to Australia’s overall productivity, is essential to Australia’s continued economic growth.

“AI has the potential to address a number of government service delivery challenges, especially in the social services sector, such as service provision to an aging population and the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“In order to harness this potential, we need to focus on AI capability and skills development now and encourage innovation and commercialisation of AI products and services through an effective R&DTI program. Without this government support, Australia will struggle to develop globally competitive AI products and services.

“Furthermore, the Government should carefully assess the suitability of existing regulatory frameworks on AI products and services before creating new regulations. The AIIA would like to see a principles-based approach adopted, rather than a regulatory approach - and be included in discussions on any proposed AI policy development activities,” added Mr Gauci.

On 5 March 2019, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) hosted a symposium on AI and human rights. The AIIA commends the AHRC for its leadership in stimulating a broader discussion on the impact of AI on Australian society between stakeholders, including government, business, industry, research institutes, civil society and other interested parties. This initiative will contribute to the development of global standards on AI.

Based on AIIA members’ submission to the AHRC on 18 March 2019, which leveraged their experience in developing and implementing AI products, the main goals of government regulation in AI should be three-fold:

1. Government should build upon and augment existing legal and ethical frameworks and oversight bodies to support the growth of the AI industry in Australia. This approach will mitigate the risk of over regulating which can have the effect of limiting both innovation and participation by all members of Australian society in developing, implementing and using AI products and services.

2. Develop AI principles and standards that build upon existing industry experience. For example, through the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), the technology industry has already aligned itself to leverage off a set of principles and policies to guide AI developments.

3. There should be an integrated approach to encouraging the development of the necessary skills for AI in Australia, with some of the skills including ethics, policy, data analytics, change management and human-centred design.

In order to stimulate discussions on the key issues in AI, the AIIA is hosting its flagship Summit event entitled AIIA Navigating Artificial Intelligence Summit on 6 June 2019 in Canberra. The 2019 Summit will bring together AIIA members, global and local experts in AI from industry, government agencies, research institutes and start-ups, to explore the challenges, opportunities and potential pitfalls that our AI-aligned future may present.

Visit the AIIA website for more information.

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