19/08/2019 - 14:49

Artificial intelligence and ethics: Facing the challenges for WA businesses

19/08/2019 - 14:49

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Interview with Brian Ferreira FGIA, Vice President - Executive Programs, ANZ - Business & Technology Advisory

Interview with Brian Ferreira FGIA, Vice President - Executive Programs, ANZ - Business & Technology Advisory

How does technology challenge WA businesses, and how can governance professionals proactively manage the risks?

I work predominantly in the technology industry, and I can’t afford to stay still. This is an industry that is continuously reinventing itself, and I’ve had to constantly re-educate myself to stay up to speed with every new development.

Widening this scope and reflecting on WA’s dominating industries, there has been a shift in from back-office technology (traditional IT) to more operational technology (OT). And the integration of IT and OT means technology is becoming an enterprise asset.  In addition, there is a wave of new age, disruptive technologies reshaping how a business operates — that disrupts how an entire organisation functions, top to bottom.

As governance leaders in these industries, we have to embrace this shift in technology to stay competitive and improve efficiencies, while working double-time to manage these risks — some of which we're only discovering now.

For example, we have a customer whose mining conveyor belt now incorporates digital sensors. So if there’s a problem, you can identify precisely where the problem lies, and deploy drones to survey the area. If we didn’t embrace this technology, we’d continue sending engineers driving up and down the conveyor belt to try and find issues, manually. Now the drones will survey the area, and the system tells the engineer exactly where to go pre-empting the problem. That increases efficiency, but that's also where risk management comes in. If the data is incorrectly structured, you risk sending your engineer to the wrong section of the conveyer belt.

Even worse, if you don’t govern how you procure your technological systems, you could be hacked and lose control of your conveyor belt. That leads to all sorts of issues, from personal injury, to lost hours of production, and stolen data.

What about Artificial Intelligence? How do organisations prepare for technologies of this nature?

Sure, everyone is talking about Artificial Intelligence at the moment, and while 'true' AI technology is still a way off, governance professionals still need to plan for something completely unforeseen in human history. There is no 'reference guide' or best practice to work from.

At the moment, AI doesn’t have instinct like us. It doesn’t have our cognitive ability. It’s solely data-focused which could have unintended consequences. As humans, we can review data and confirm that the data makes sense. But our instinct can stop us making the wrong decision in spite of the data results. AI doesn’t have that instinct yet. It makes the decision solely on the data, which could have unintentional consequences to the production line.

It raises the question of 'AI ethics'. As leaders and governance professionals, how do we apply corporate ethics to AI? You need an AI skillset and ensure that those responsible are building ethics into the AI solutions. You need to consider:

1.     fairness in decision and output

2.     transparency — how did you come to the decision

3.     accountability — what does good governance look like?

4.     security and data privacy

5.     lawfulness and human centricity (without cognitive theory, AI can be very risky)

So how can governance and risk management professionals future-proof themselves?

We can’t afford to stay stagnant. Embrace every twist and turn in your career — you never know when you’ll rely on that experience.

A personal example of this stems from building my relationship with the board. In the past, conversations about technology were held outside of the boardroom. Now, if it’s not on the board’s agenda, they’re failing. I understood this shift.

Completing a Certificate with Governance Institute of Australia helped me understand how a board functions. And, as a technical executive interacting with the board, it skilled me up to think like the board and therefore help the board fast-track their decisions. Building on this experience, I’ve taken the next step to do a deep dive into the world of governance through postgraduate study.

It's also important to be conscious of your unconscious behaviour. This is challenging. But through uplifting your capability, you’ll be more mindful of when you’re getting stale or forming biases. 

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