Australia stands at the crossroads of AI innovation, reveals new report

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Australia finds itself at a pivotal moment in the development of artificial intelligence, with the potential to either lead or lag in both technical advancements and regulatory innovations, according to a recent report jointly authored by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) and the University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML).

Titled “Responsible AI: Your Questions Answered,” the report, featuring insights from 13 of Australia’s leading AI experts, emphasised the transformative potential of AI to enhance and simplify various aspects of daily life.

However, it underscored the urgent need for the nation to establish a social license, enhance public understanding, and spearhead new AI research and development activities to ensure responsible deployment and regulation of AI technology.

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker highlighted the unique opportunity Australia has amid the current global AI landscape, asserting that the nation’s robust institutions, innovation ecosystem, effective governance, and high technology adoption rate position it to become a global leader in developing Responsible AI.

“Our strong institutions, innovation ecosystem, effective governance and high rate of technology adoption position Australia to lead the world in the development of Responsible AI,” Walker noted.

Walker also emphasised the unanimous view among the report’s authors that Australia must invest in AI research and foster collaboration between academia and industry to cultivate a culture of research, innovation, and risk-taking.

She stressed the importance of focusing on science and technology skills within the Australian workforce, calling for support for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and teacher development to ensure widespread literacy about AI impacts and functioning.

Meanwhile, Professor Simon Lucey, director of AIML, added that Australia should aspire to be at the forefront of Responsible AI creation but underscored the need for industries to prioritise AI-enabled innovation.

“Our key industry sectors are at crucial juncture where embracing AI is no longer just an option, but a necessity. That means being AI creators, not just AI users,” Professor Lucey said.

He continued, “AI capability is really centred around talented people, so Australia’s university sector has a leading role to play here. AI’s rapid growth means we need to ramp up to meet demand, but we also need new kinds of university-industry partnerships for the future.”

The report’s essay collection contributes independent analysis to Australia’s ongoing AI conversation, following the government’s efforts to outline appropriate safeguards.

It builds on the momentum generated by ATSE’s involvement in delivering a Rapid Response Information Report on Generative AI for the National Science and Technology Council in March 2023, outlining risks and opportunities.

Released during AI Safety Month, ATSE said the Responsible AI essay collection emphasises that AI has the potential to address significant national challenges in novel ways, marking a crucial phase in Australia’s AI journey.