Theresa May talks tech in Davos speech at the World Economic Forum

Esra Gurkan, January 31, 2018 2 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech City UK website.

Theresa May was in Davos, Switzerland last Thursday to address the World Economic Forum.

Her speech talked about the impact technology has on society, including the importance of digital in the Industrial Strategy, the new Digital Charter, which is in response to the opportunities and challenges arising from new technologies, and the Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation.

May said that the UK should “seize” the opportunities of technology because it is “growing in ways that even a few years ago we could not have imagined”, and called for governments to prepare for changes in the workforce due to technological advances such as automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Launch of Institute of Coding

May used her keynote address to stress the importance of the growth of Artificial Intelligence to Britain’s future, and announced that the government is to establish an Institute of Coding.

This will bring together more than 60 universities, business and industry experts to support training and retraining in digital skills.

Through her speech, she made it clear that Britain is to be on the “front foot” in seizing tech opportunities.

May declared that there will be the UK’s biggest ever increase in public investment in research and development, and by as much as £80 billion over the next decade.

With a new AI startup created in the UK every week over the last three years, the Prime Minister is “investing in the skills these startups need, spending £45 million to support additional PhDs in AI and related disciplines and creating at least 200 extra places a year by 2020-21.”

She then went to say: “We are absolutely determined to make our country the place to come and set up to seize the opportunities of Artificial Intelligence for the future.”

Ethics and responsibility

May also used her speech to urge tech companies to establish rules and standards that can make the most of AI in a responsible manner.

This includes dealing with harmful and illegal online activity from terrorists, extremists, child abusers and preventing modern slavery from taking place on the internet.

It is for this reason that she wants the new world-leading Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to work closely with international partners to build “a common understanding of how to ensure the safe, ethical and innovative deployment of Artificial Intelligence.”

She announced that the UK will be joining the World Economic Forum’s new council on AI that will help shape global governance and applications of this new technology.

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, saying: “For the forces of free trade and technological progress which have brought us to this point are as nothing in comparison to their potential to enrich the lives of our children and grandchildren.”

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