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Governance and progression of AI in the UK

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Governance and progression of AI in the UK

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are essential to growth in the global digital economy, and the UK has ambitions to lead the way

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  • Maria Bell and Bola Rotibi

Published: 17 Jun 2022

With the UK professing a global digital outlook, its strength in artificial intelligence (AI) reflects its ability to compete confidently on the world stage, so it is important to analyse whether the fundamentals are in place for the UK to go even further and take a leading position.

In April 2022, the Westminster eForum (WEF) held a conference billed as “Next steps for artificial intelligence in the UK – the National AI Strategy, market development, regulatory and ethical frameworks, and priorities for societal benefit”. The WEF, which has no policy agenda of its own, enabled a discussion of the UK government’s AI strategy, with speakers representing the AI Council, industry, research institutes and education.

The National AI Strategy was unveiled in September 2021, six months after the AI Council published its AI roadmap report that outlined 16 recommendations to help develop the UK’s strategic direction for AI. The AI Council, an independent expert committee, has members from industry, the public sector and academia, and works to support the growth of AI in the UK.

The National AI Strategy outlines a 10-year plan that represents a step-change for AI in the UK. It recognises that maximising AI’s potential will increase resilience, productivity, growth and innovation in the private and public sectors. Although the government’s strategy was welcomed by speakers at the WEF, it was clear from discussions that the UK still had more to do to strengthen its position if it is to remain an AI superpower. Several considerations and concerns were highlighted, with skills and education, trust and regulation sitting at the top of people’s minds.

Same old story: addressing the UK skills gap

AI skills are crucial if the UK wants to roll out its strategy quickly, but a recent Microsoft report on UK AI skills showed that British organisations were less likely to be classed as AI pros compared with the global average – 15% versus 23%. It also reported that 17% of UK employees were being re-skilled for AI, compared with 38% globally, raising concerns that the UK faces a skills gap that could leave businesses struggling to keep up with global competitors.

As adoption of AI – according to CCS Insight surveys – looks to increase significantly in the next 12 months, so too will the demand for AI skills. The challenge will be finding and training the talent needed to close this gap. A labour market report by the AI Council showed 100,000 unfilled job postings in AI and data science, with almost 50% of companies saying job applicants lacked the technical skills needed.

Organisations will need to proactively minimise their own talent gaps by providing training to their existing workforce, ensuring they can fully exploit every investment made in digital transformation.

The UK AI Council’s road map concluded that the country needs to scale up its programmes significantly at all levels of education if it is to ensure new entrants to the workforce. But Rokhsana Fiaz, mayor of the London Borough of Newham, claimed that the UK lacks coherent career pathways, professional standards and equitable opportunities for people seeking careers in AI and data.

Local government initiatives are being undertaken in Newham to address the issue, but there is also a call for the country to generate more practical AI skills nationally. A programme involving collaboration between the government, industry leaders in AI and digital training providers, pushed forward using a cloud-native approach, would make it accessible to all in the UK.

Can a sector-based approach lead to AI regulation?

Regulation of AI is vital, and responsibility lies both with those who develop it and those who deploy it. But according to Matt Hervey, head of AI at law firm Gowling WLG, the reality is that there is a lack of people who understand AI, and consequently a shortage of people who can develop regulation.

The UK does have a range of existing legislative frameworks that should mitigate many of the potential harms of AI – such as laws regarding data protection, product liability negligence and fraud – but they lag behind the European Union (EU), where regulations are already being proposed to address AI systems specifically. UK companies doing business in the EU will most likely need to comply with EU law if it is at a higher level than our own.

In this rapidly changing digital technology market, the challenge is always going to be the speed at which developments are made. With a real risk that AI innovation could get ahead of regulators, it is imperative that sensible guard rails are put in place to minimise harm. But also that frameworks are developed to allow the sale of beneficial AI products and services, such as autonomous vehicles.

This points to the UK’s sector-based approach, with an emphasis on industries most likely to drive innovation, such as finance, automotive, transport and healthcare. Because a fundamental part of law and regulation is how the safety of AI systems is assessed, legislation will be very much determined by their specific application in different sectors. This approach could see spill-over effects, such as sector-specific regulations being widened to apply to different industries.

Building trust to promote innovation

Concerns about risk, including ethical risk, are major blocks to AI innovation in industry. Research from the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) claimed that over 25% of medium-to-large businesses identified uncertainty on how to establish ethical governance as a barrier to innovation. The CDEI leads the UK government’s work on enabling trustworthy innovation in data and AI.

Industry cannot innovate without ethical risks being addressed or the development of data governance that fosters public trust. In 2021, the CDEI developed an algorithm transparency standard, helping public sector organisations to provide clear information about the algorithmic tools they use and why they are using them. Currently being piloted, its success could be a big factor in building public trust in data, and subsequently in AI-driven technologies.

The things independent bodies and governments do well

The next big focus for the AI Council is on ambitious programmes that focus on the climate crisis, health, defence and science. AI can be used to massively improve the efficiency of production for everyone, building more-resilient and adaptable energy systems and helping to deliver operations with net-zero emissions. A recent study developed by Microsoft and PwC estimated that AI-powered environmental applications could save up to 4% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and contribute to 4.4% of GDP.

Such an outcome, while beneficial for the planet, also offers the potential of creating 3.8 million jobs. Lessons learned from the pandemic show AI’s capacity for improving health outcomes for patients and freeing up staff time. The defence industry is seeing more AI companies collaborate with the UK Ministry of Defence, GCHQ and other partners.

It would seem the vital role that the AI Council can offer  – apart from ensuring that the government continues to scan the horizon for new opportunities – is in providing the framework that encourages collaboration between academia, business and end-users. Equally important is making sure that the fundamentals are in place, and that systems and processes are properly designed and delivered.

The council, together with the government, is perhaps better placed than private sector industries for gathering the widest array of stakeholders. Getting people working beyond existing boundaries and organisational structures to build new relationships, networks and common languages heralds the strength of such consortia in playing to AI’s problem-solving strengths.

The US and China are racing ahead in delivering large-scale foundational AI models, with the danger of leaving the UK trailing behind if it stays reliant on outdated solutions. Prioritising an innovative and flexible approach, and making the right calls on AI regulation and governance, could carve out a new path between existing and forthcoming regulations from the US, the EU and China.

Partnering for progress

Although the UK government’s strategy has made progress, there is still some way to go. There is a lot of ambitious talk at what still feels like a very early stage of the game, seeming slightly disconnected from what the industry is actually doing. Suppliers from most sectors are already well on their AI journey, building technical tools and developing new solutions to sell.

One question we must ask is why more companies innovating in AI are not represented on the AI Council. If industry is already so entrenched in developing AI solutions, their practical knowledge and services could provide the valuable insights needed to charge forward.

There was a strong feeling during WEF – almost a call to arms – for stakeholders to come together to help promote the UK’s National AI Strategy. We will be watching with increasing interest to see who was listening ahead of the next conference, titled “Adoption of AI technologies”.

Maria Bell is a senior analyst, and Bola Rotibi is a research director, at CCS Insight





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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives

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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives
Nothing Ear (stick) held by a model on white background



(Image credit: Nothing )

True to form, Nothing has just announced the full reveal date for its upcoming audio product, Ear (stick). 

So, an announcement about an announcement. You’ve got to hand it to Carl Pei’s marketing department, they never miss a trick.

What we’re saying is that although we still have ‘nothing’ conclusive about the features, pricing or release date for the Ear (stick) except an image of another model holding them (and we’ve seen plenty of those traipsing down the catwalk recently), we do have a date – the day when we’ll be granted official access to this information. 

That day is October 26. Nothing assures us that on this day we’ll be able to find out everything, including pricing and product specifications, during the online Ear (stick) Reveal, at 3PM BST (which is 10AM ET, or 1AM on Wednesday if you’re in Sydney, Australia) on nothing.tech (opens in new tab)

Any further information? A little. Nothing calls the Ear (stick), which is now the product’s official name, “the next generation of Nothing sound technology”, and its “most advanced audio product yet”. 

But that’s not all! Apparently, Ear (stick) are “half in-ear true wireless earbuds that balance supreme comfort with exceptional sound, made not to be felt when in use. They’re feather-light with an ergonomic design that’s moulded to your ears. Delivered in a unique charging case, inspired by classic cosmetic silhouettes, and compactly formed to simply glide into pockets.” 

Opinion: I need more than a lipstick-style case

Nothing Ear (stick) – official leaked renders pic.twitter.com/FrhKmRttmiOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that I want Nothing’s earbuds to succeed in world dominated by AirPods; who doesn’t love a plucky, eccentric underdog? 

But in order to become some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market, there is room for improvement over the Nothing Ear 1, the company’s inaugural earbuds. 

Aside from this official ‘news’ from Nothing, leaked images and videos of the Ear (stick) have been springing up all over the internet (thank you, developer Kuba Wojciechowski) and they depict earbuds that look largely unchanged, which is a shame. 

For me, the focus needs to shift from gimmicks such as a cylindrical case with a red section at the end which twists up like a lipstick. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of theater, but only if the sound coming from the earbuds themselves is top dog. 

As the natural companions for the Nothing Phone 1, it makes sense for the Ear (stick) to take a place similar to that of Apple’s AirPods 3, where the flagship Ear (1) sit alongside the AirPods Pro 2 as a flagship offering. 

See, that lipstick case shape likely will not support wireless charging. That and the rumored lack of ANC means the Ear (stick) is probably arriving as the more affordable option in Nothing’s ouevre. 

For now, we sit tight until October 26. 

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.  

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers
Woman watching YouTube on mobile phone screen



(Image credit: Shutterstock / Kicking Studio)

You might soon have to buy YouTube Premium to watch 4K YouTube videos, a new user test suggests.

According to a Reddit thread (opens in new tab) highlighted on Twitter by leaker Alvin (opens in new tab), several non-Premium YouTube users have reported seeing 4K resolution (and higher) video options limited to YouTube Premium subscribers on their iOS devices. For these individuals, videos are currently only available to stream in up to 1440p (QHD) resolution.

The apparent experiment only seems to be affecting a handful of YouTube users for now, but it suggests owner Google is toying with the idea of implementing a site-wide paywall for access to high-quality video in the future.

So, after testing up to 12 ads on YouTube for non-Premium users, now some users reported that they also have to get a Premium account just to watch videos in 4K. pic.twitter.com/jJodoAxeDpOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that Google has been searching for new ways to monetize its YouTube platform in recent months. In September, the company introduced five unskippable ads for some YouTube users as part of a separate test – an unexpected development that, naturally, didn’t go down well with much of the YouTube community. 

A resolution paywall seems a more palatable approach from Google. While annoying, the change isn’t likely to provoke the same level of ire from non-paying YouTube users as excessive ads, given that many smartphones still max out at QHD resolution anyway. 

Of course, if it encourages those who do care about high-resolution viewing to invest in the platform’s Premium subscription package, it may also be more lucrative for Google. After all, YouTube Premium, which offers ad-free viewing, background playback and the ability to download videos for offline use, currently costs $11.99 / £11.99 / AU$14.99 per month.

Suffice to say, the subscription service hasn’t taken off in quite the way Google would’ve hoped since its launch in 2014. Only around 50 million users are currently signed up to YouTube Premium, while something close to 2 billion people actively use YouTube on a monthly basis. 

Might the addition of 4K video into Premium’s perk package bump up that number? Only time will tell. We’ll be keeping an eye on our own YouTube account to see whether this resolution paywall becomes permanent in the coming months.

Axel is a London-based staff writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the newest movies to latest Apple developments as part of the site’s daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned a gold standard NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme. 

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

USB-C als Ladestandard in der EU

Mundissima / Shutterstock


Author: Michael Crider
, Staff Writer

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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