Business

Australia lagging on ethical AI uptake

Australia is not adopting AI as fast as it needs to, according to the head of CSIRO's data arm. (AAP)

Australian industry is not adopting AI as fast as it needs to, according to the head of CSIRO's data arm.

Australia is faced with an "urgent challenge" to fast track strategy for the uptake of ethical artificial intelligence systems at the risk of global firms setting the boundaries and profiting, according to the head of CSIRO's data arm.

A CEDA audience in Sydney heard AI was already central to an increasingly data-driven global economy and, if applied correctly in Australia, could boost the national economy by $315 billion.

CSIRO Data61 chief executive Adrian Turner warned the country could not afford to sit on its hands.

"I believe that Australian industry is not adopting tech on the whole as fast as it needs to," Mr Turner said on Friday.

"We need to lean into this and we need to develop sovereign capability ... If we get it wrong we'll see global platform companies come in and extract the value."

Friday's CEDA event centred on the importance of building ethics into AI systems - making them lawful, fair, transparent, accountable, and contestable for those on the end of any AI-driven decision.

But it was also a call to arms.

Mr Turner said Australia's egalitarian culture and the underlying values of fairness held by society had provided it an advantage in development of ethical AI systems.

He also said the nation had a demonstrated depth for machine learning capability and everything needed to build and develop next generation of tools and systems that could be measured in "tens of trillions" in export value over the next 20 years.

But Mr Turner said Australia's research and development expenditure for business was only 1.9 per cent of the GDP, lagging other countries who are spending about 3.5 per cent of their GDP.

"Why does this matter? Because as we go through these shifts, economically, every industry becomes more data driven and machine learning and AI sits at the centre of this and is the basis of competitive advantage," Mr Turner said.

"We need to we need to lean into this ... We can't import that value-based by system for ethics. We can't import sovereignty."

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