AI will only work if ethics and transparency are at the core, says leading global accountancy body
ACCA ( Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is urging the UK Government to put ethics, transparency and governance at the heart of its artificial intelligence (AI) policy.
As the UK Government’s AI Safety Summit meets at Bletchley Park — one of the birthplaces of computer science — to discuss how AI benefits can be realised, ACCA says that the only way to ensure AI is viable for the long term and works for the whole of society is to ensure transparency around the way it is used and its impact.
The key ethical concerns identified by ACCA research are:
• A lack of transparency and trust hindering AI adoption
• The ability to mitigate bias and discrimination in use
• Privacy and security of data
• An absence of a relevant legal and regulatory framework — for issues such as liability and copyright
• Inaccuracy and misinformation
• The magnification effect/unintended consequences — one single AI error could be much more serious than human error.
Jamie Lyon, ACCA’s head of skills, sectors and technology, said: “To navigate this complex landscape, individuals and organisations must understand and proactively manage these risks. Transparency will only be achieved if the policies and strategies of the organisation are designed to ensure accountability and good governance. Transparency — including when AI is used — builds trust ensuring this technology can be used confidently and can be relied on.”
While keen to see the Government respond effectively, ACCA says that the accountancy profession is ideally placed to work with government and others to ensure that appropriate AI policies are in place.
The summit focuses on frontier and long-term risks which have their place for proper consideration. However, ACCA believes that everyday challenges facing individuals and organisations today cannot be ignored. AI will only be fully embraced when an environment is created based on clear principles and where AI adoption reflects good practices and compliance with existing laws — such as data protection and other legal rights.
Every organisation across the UK should be urgently considering creating an AI policy, even if they have yet to start actively using AI.
Glenn Collins, head of technical and strategic engagement at ACCA UK, said: “Accountants are used to working on digital transformation and acting in the best interest of their clients and businesses. Look how finance professionals have worked with accountancy and tax software providers to ensure UK business can have a digital dividend. The same can happen with AI.
“But this needs to happen quickly. Understandably there is much confusion and uncertainty in the business community — especially SMEs — and they are looking for guidance on how to implement practical safeguards.”
Finance professionals already have access to data — which is an essential part of the AI conversation — and can use technology to improve productivity and transparency working within appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks.
Jamie Lyon said: “To ensure that finance professionals are the advocates of change required across all sectors of the UK, as a professional body ACCA continues to ensure its educational professional requirements and related standards remain relevant. We are ensuring accountants have the knowledge and practical tools to meet the AI challenge so our members can fully play their part in realising the benefits of AI for business, the public sector and wider society.”
See ACCA’s Digital Horizons and Quick Guide to AI and Building the Foundations for Trusted AI