Davos 2018: The UK’s Artificial Intelligence Future

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos a few weeks ago, UK Prime Minster, Theresa May delivered a confident speech on the advancement of technology innovation and its potential to boost the UK economy. The Prime Minister began her speech by highlighting that “harnessing the power of technology is not just in all our interest, but it’s fundamental to the advancement of humanity.” This statement demonstrated her intent to ensure that technology will be a critical element of UK economic growth and her lofty ambitions for the UK to be a global leader in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI was a consistent theme throughout the Prime Minister’s speech. It’s clear that AI will be a focus area for the growth. She announced that the UK will commit to the establishment of a world-first national advisory body for AI – the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI). The centre has already been allocated £9 million by the UK Government and will advise on measures needed to ensure safe and ethical uses of data-driven technologies. Furthermore, she announced that the UK will be joining the World Economic Forum’s new council on AI which will safeguard the future of development in AI and robotics.

The UK is committed to AI technology and the Government believes in its promise to boost the economy as it estimates that AI could add approximately £630bn to the UK economy by 2035 according to a report titled Growing the artificial intelligence industry in the UK.

The digital skills gap

The promise of AI cannot be underestimated – the Prime Minister mentioned that there has been a new AI start-up created in the UK every week for the last three years. That’s roughly 156 AI start-ups in three years. There is clear demand for AI, and start-ups are seizing this opportunity. As AI continues to permeate business industries, our societal understanding must improve. A few ways to do this is to focus on boosting digital skills and continuing to nurture the talent pool of individuals who will develop future AI technologies.

To further boost digital skills, The Prime Minster also announced the establishment of the UK’s first Institute of Coding (IoC) which will receive a £20 million investment from the Government. This investment will be matched by a further £20 million from industry, including in-kind contributions such as training and equipment. The forum will help to forge stronger relationships between the Government, industry, businesses and universities to equip people with the digital skills they need.

Infrastructure for AI

Although it has been around since the 1960’s, major technological advancements in graphic processing units and networks, along with the demands of big data have catapulted AI in to the mainstream. We predicted in our 2018 predictions for IT blog that AI would start to take centre stage.

AI has facilitated technologies such as, high-frequency algorithmic trading, autonomous vehicles, healthcare technology and online shopping. These AI advancements generate huge volumes of big data which need to be effectively stored, processed and analysed. As more data is produced, it has become more important than ever for companies to have an IT strategy / infrastructure which allows them to derive useful information and insights that can ultimately improve business performance.  In the enterprise industry, AI has transformed computing services and helped organisations better identify patterns and trends to predict system failures through AI-based intelligence software.

Given the increase in cybersecurity threats in the current business landscape – AI has the potential to enhance online security protocols thanks to pattern recognition capabilities of AI-based firewalls. The analytical capabilities of AI offer a competitive advantage for organisations to make more informed business decisions.

To truly leverage the enterprise benefits of AI – fast, private connections between various systems is critical. AI systems need to communicate in real-time within an ecosystem of users, applications and systems. Speed and security is key to ensure this ecosystem functions as well as possible to realise the true value of AI.

Interconnection or AI?

Crucial to the function of AI is direct and secure interconnection between users, cloud applications, machines and data sources alike. Being able to directly and securely interconnect companies and privately exchange data is the future. What’s more, this interconnection needs to happen instantly, with various counterparts located as geographically close to each other as possible – at the digital edge.

The Equinix Cloud Exchange (ECX) Fabric enables this type of interconnection in more than 25 metros across the globe. Check out the Platform Equinix Vision whitepaper to see how it’s done.

The Prime Minister’s speech at Davos 2018 will certainly reassure businesses that the UK can indeed remain a leader in the global digital economy. Ending on a positive note, May made it clear to the audience that the risks and challenges the country faces “do not” outweigh the opportunities.

Once again – here is a summary of the technology takeaways from Theresa May’s Davos speech:

  • The announcement of the IoC
  • The UK to join the WEF council on AI
  • The announcement of the CDEI
  • The UK to be world leaders in the field of AI
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