digital people and numbers

Global spending on artificial intelligence (AI) is forecast to hit $US98 billion over the next three years, but only a handful of companies have policies for managing the potential risks, according to the World Economic Forum.

Many executives and investors don’t understand all that AI can do for them, nor the parameters they can set to ensure ethical and responsible use, says Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of Artificial Intelligence, speaking at the launch of the toolkit at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this year.

“Companies will play a significant role in how AI impacts society,” she said. “Yet, our research found that many executives and investors do not understand the full scope of what AI can do for them and what parameters they can set to ensure the use of the technology is ethical and responsible.”

To help boards tackle this challenge, the World Economic Forum worked with more than 100 companies and technology experts during the course of a year to develop the Empowering AI Toolkit.

AI’s Ethics Hazards

The tool warns that any failure to consider and address these issues and concerns could drive away clients, partners and employees. And that there may be legal and regulatory consequences.

The toolkit recommends:

  1. The board ensures that ethics matter by hiring ethical executives and holding them accountable
  2. That boards can’t execute their responsibilities without ethical standards
  3. That boards protect whistleblowers

Five tools in the ethics section offer the AI principles development tool which helps boards of directors and AI ethics boards develop an AI ethics code.

12 learning modules

Built with the structure of the board meeting in mind, the toolkit aligns 12 learning modules with traditional board committees and working groups, including audit, strategy, cybersecurity, people and culture and risk. It aims to help companies make informed decisions about AI solutions that protect the customer and shareholders.

The toolkit was co-created with the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network Fellows and contributions from the Australian Institute of Company Directors. The AICD has been an active contributor to the WEF AI Toolkit for Boards, in line with our views that directors are challenged with AI and its impact to their business, industry, economy and society.

This toolkit provides a global perspective that will help Australian directors learn and share experiences with the global best practices that the WEF's forum can provide.

Seven modules focus on strategy oversight and the responsibilities connected with them. They cover: brand, competition, customers, operating model, people and culture, technology and cybersecurity. Five other modules cover additional board oversight topics: ethics, governance, risk, audit and board responsibilities. Access the toolkit here.