CSIRO releases strategies for government to ‘improve quality of life’ with AI

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday November 20, 2019

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, and Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, CSIRO senior research scientist.

The national science agency has developed an artificial intelligence technology roadmap for the government which prioritises health, infrastructure, and the environment.

Released at the inaugural AI summit Techtonic in Canberra last week, the plan was created in consultation with industry, government, and academia. It gives AI-based strategies to boost industry productivity, create jobs, prompt economic growth, and improve the quality of life.

Senior research scientist at CSIRO’s Data61, Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, said three AI specialisations have been identified — health, ageing, and disability; cities, towns, and infrastructure; and natural resources and environment — to solve Australia-specific problems, and in turn export the solutions globally.

CSIRO argued these AI specialisations could help the health, infrastructure, and environmental sectors be more cost-efficient and effective, while improving the health and wellbeing of Australians.

Examples detailed in the roadmap included using AI to help firefighters map forest fire fronts, identify skin cancers, and help those suffering from mental illness have a conversation with a chatbot before getting expert help.

Source: CSIRO

Hajkowicz said Australia must act now to reap the benefits of AI by 2030, by upskilling the existing workforce and ensuring AI has been developed to ethical standards.

“AI is data hungry, so we need to improve access to data and also address increasing cybersecurity privacy concerns,” he said. “Greater investment in applied research and development will underpin these foundations and help us shape an AI-enabled future for the benefit of all Australians.”

READ MORE: Former digital government boss criticises new ethical AI guidelines

The agency’s chief executive, Dr Larry Marshall, said AI could grow Australia’s economy by $315 billion, so long as AI activities are nationally coordinated to “accelerate research and drive scale”.

AI has been estimated to be worth $22.17 trillion to the global economy by 2030, CSIRO noted. The agency last year announced a $19 million Future Science Platform on AI and machine learning to target AI-driven solutions for areas including food security and quality, health and wellbeing, sustainable energy and resources, resilient and valuable environments, and Australian and regional security.

The roadmap accompanies the government’s AI ethics framework  discussion paper, which was published in April. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science recently released the final set of ethics principles, but it was full of “glittering generalities”, according to former digital transformation chief Paul Shetler.

Aside from ethics, the report argues other important areas for consideration include an AI specialist workforce, career transitions and upskilling, data governance and access, building trust in AI, research and development, and digital infrastructure and cybersecurity.

READ MORE: Artificial intelligence in Australia needs to get ethical, so we have a plan


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