Editorial

UK government claimed to be second most ready to exploit AI globally

New ‘Government AI readiness index’ puts us just behind Singapore in terms of global potential – but warns of an AI North-South Divide, too

Posted 21 May 2019 by

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could end up widening already stark divides between the Global North and the Global South – though it seems the UK is also in the leading cohort of developed nations when it comes to being ready to use the stuff for real.

The study – drawn up by think tank Oxford Insights in partnership with the Canadian-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC) – is the 2019 run of its Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness study which it first did in 2017, this year ranking 194 countries round the world.

Oxford Insights

According to its methodology, the UK came second overall – only pipped to the post by Singapore. Other countries in the rest of the top 20 are other Western European governments, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and four further Asian economies. There are no Latin American or African countries in the top 20, and perhaps surprisingly, for all the money being poured in by its ruling Communist Party, China comes 20th.

But the study is less about jingo-ism than pointing out some potential social dangers in the discrepancy between what the UK might do with the tech and the rest of the world:

“Countries in the Global South could be left behind by the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution [as] not only will they not reap the potential benefits of AI, but there is also the danger that unequal implementation widens global inequalities.”

In any case, the list is determined by an overall score comprised of 11 input metrics, grouped under four high-level clusters: governance; infrastructure and data; skills and education; and government and public services.

Considering the disparities highlighted in this report, the pair recommend policymakers should act to ensure that global inequalities are not further entrenched or exacerbated by AI.

That’e because, it argues, “Emerging technologies offer a unique opportunity to improve the governments of the future, and citizens’ experience of government. As we enter the age of automation, governments must ensure that they are ready to capitalise on the potential power of AI.”

The data is derived from a variety of resources, ranging from Oxford Insight’s own desk research into AI strategies to databases such as the number of registered AI startups on Crunchbase, to indices such as the UN eGovernment Development Index.