Australia is fast-tracking its bid to becoming an AI powerhouse

Investment in artificial intelligence (AI) has been a priority for governments and businesses across the world. 

In Southeast Asia, the emphasis on AI-leadership is more pronounced with China’s Premier incentivizing research efforts in the technology, and technology giants such as Alibaba and Tencent making massive strides in their quest for AI excellence.

Research cited by Standards Australia, a standard setting non-profit, found that since 2017, 14 of the world’s most advanced economies have announced over US$55 billion (AUD86 billion) in focused AI programs and activities.

Australia, despite its government’s efforts to help take the its agencies and businesses on a digital journey, hasn’t made significant progress with AI. Standards Australia aims to change that.

A recent 44-page report published by the body provides an extensive study of the landscape in the world in terms of AI development and offers recommendations which can start to change the status quo when it comes to AI success and leadership on the global stage.

According to the study conducted by Standards Australia, there are four key goals for Australia:

  1. Ensure that Australia can effectively influence AI standards development globally
  2. Increase the international competitiveness of Australian businesses in relation to responsible AI and streamline requirements in areas like privacy risk management
  3. Ensure AI-related standards are developed in a way that takes into account diversity and inclusion, ensures fairness, and builds social trust, and
  4. Grow Australia’s capacity to develop and share best practice in the design, deployment and evaluation of AI systems.

The recommendations put forward by the body emphasize the importance of standards, not just in the AI space, but in any commercial ecosystem.

“Standards affect 80 percent (US$4 trillion annually) of global trade, and are important in relation to emerging technologies, like AI, and provide an adaptive and responsive approach to managing AI,” said the reporting team.

While the setting up of standards [which are usually not legally enforceable] must be thought through, the reality is that their impact will only be felt across the economy if they’re welcomed with open arms and implemented across the board.

According to Standards Australia, the standards could be implemented either on a voluntary basis, through inclusion in contracts, or via regulatory call-up in specific sectors.

Of course, implementation on a voluntary basis is best, but sometimes, accelerating the progress towards certain goals, especially when playing catch up, requires a more hands-on approach.

In China, for example, which leads in many aspects of not only AI research but also at-scale implementation, the government isn’t shy to use regulatory call-ups. It has a nationwide AI success framework and policy, with appropriate governance, incentivization, and monitoring structures in place.

The report by Standards Australia contains recommendations, many of which can really fast-track the country’s AI efforts — to see how much of it is put into action, market observers will have to wait. Hopefully just a short while.

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