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UK government defines areas of priority for digital identity and AI

UK government defines areas of priority for digital identity and AI

How can the UK ensure that its artificial intelligence technology reduces bias and how can the digital identity ecosystem become more inclusive? These are some of the questions that the UK government officially defined as its technological priorities in 2024.

On Monday, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (​​DSIT) released its first-ever document detailing areas of research interest (ARI), covering industries such as digital identity and artificial intelligence. The policy document was created to fill knowledge gaps within the agency, which was tasked last year with boosting the UK’s global position in cutting-edge technologies.

“The science and technology landscape is vast and complex – we require the strongest research and data to underpin our policymaking,” National Technology Adviser Dave Smith said in a statement.

According to the document, digital identity will be covered by the Cyber Security and Digital Identity (CSDI) directorate. Its main task will be to examine how to create secure and more inclusive digital ID services, from age checks for age-regulated products to pre-employment checks and opening a bank account.

The agency makes it clear that it will not be mandating specific approaches but will rely on the UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework (DIATF) and the Office for Digital Identities and Attributes (OfDIA) to ensure organizations meet standards.

Instead, the directorate will attempt to reveal what are the barriers to inclusivity, what are the consequences of leaving some groups excluded from digital services, how to build trust in digital identity solutions, and minimize security and privacy risks. DSIT has also recently updated its guidance on the DSIT Digital Identity Programme.

Working on issues related to AI, including bias will be the Digital Technology and Telecoms Group. Its main task will be to assess risks posed by the technology and ensure AI ethics.

DIST will operate a sizable budget for pushing the UK’s “global leadership” in AI technology. At the beginning of February, the government announced it would invest over £100 million (US$126.6 million) to support regulators and advance AI.

Around £90 million ($114 million) will be used to establish nine research hubs to foster homegrown AI innovation in areas such as healthcare, mathematics and chemistry. Another £10 million ($12.6 million) will be used to upskill regulators who will be working on defining AI risks and opportunities.

In addition, the government has invested another £100 million in the country’s AI Safety Institute which will evaluate risks of new AI models.

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