In her speech to world leaders gathered at DAVOS, UK Prime Minister Theresa May drew a line in the sand and sent a clear message to both the British and global tech community. The UK is committed to leadership in this space, but the Government expects the industry to be active participants in this process. For companies such as Uber, worried that governments around the world, including the UK, would impose harsh regulation or totally limit its activity, this is good news. However many in the tech community may consider this too little too late.
The speech addressed how big tech companies can work alongside government to ensure that emerging technologies are a force for good and how to ensure that the risks and challenges do not outweigh the opportunities. Mrs May laid out the UK’s vision for this technological future with a focus on three clear areas:
The responsibility of tech investors
The Prime Minister directly called upon investors to consider the social impact of the companies they’re investing in, and to “use their influence to protect against these issues [child safety online, cybercrime, terrorism, data protection and modern slavery]”.
She praised shareholders of Facebook and Twitter, who recently demanded an end to secrecy about sexual harassment, fake news and hate speech on their sites.
The speech also addressed how governments world-wide need to look at the legal liability of content that the likes of technology companies have on their sites, and called on companies to find a way to remove illegal or terrorism-related content automatically.
To ensure that the technology acts a force for good in the future, international and legal partners must make the existing frameworks work better.
The Prime Minister also stressed her determination to establish the U.K. as a world leader in artificial intelligence, but admitted that harnessing its capability while responding to public concerns was one of the “greatest tests of leadership for our time”, but one she is “confident we can meet…to make those changes work for all our people”
In the speech, she announced that the WEF’S new council on AI to help shape governance and applications of AI and to ensure that algorithms do not perpetuate human biases of their developers.
What this means for the tech industry is still very much a matter of negotiation and debate, but it will be seen as a positive sign of this government’s commitment to the industry and its importance to the future of the UK economy.